A new publication by IUCN has set a precedent for deliberately moving plants and animals for conservation purposes around the world. Based on 30 years of experience and pioneering reintroductions such as the Arabian Oryx (Oryx leucoryx) in Oman, the Golden Lion Tamarin (Leontopithecus rosalia) in Brazil and the Red Wolf (Canis rufus) in the USA, and many other plants and animals subsequently, this publication is an essential guide to the contentious but increasingly necessary action of translocating species.
Published by the Reintroduction Specialist Group (RSG) and Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG) of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC); ‘Guidelines for Reintroductions and Other Conservation Translocations’ explores the biological, social, and political aspects of translocating species, and provides a starting point for risk assessment and feasibility studies. It is envisaged that by incorporating these guidelines into wider conservation strategies, conservationists will be ever-more prepared to intervene and save species, should extrinsic pressures require it.
“Adoption of the new Guidelines has been swift, a few weeks ago the Spanish national government’s Wild Fauna and Flora Committee proposed a new national code for conservation translocations, based in detail on the new IUCN guidelines” says Dr Emilio Laguna, senior officer in the Wildlife Service, Valencia, Spain.
Humans have moved organisms between sites for their own purposes for millennia, and this has yielded benefits for human kind, but in some cases has led to disastrous impacts. Most invasive alien species are the result of non-conservation related movements, and in some cases invasive species have been introduced due to mistaken conservation efforts. The Canadian Beaver (Castor canadensis) for example, was mistaken for the Eurasian Beaver (Castor fiber) and released into Finland in the early 20th Century, where it now out-competes the native species, and the Cane Toad (Rhinella marina) originally introduced to Australia to control sugar cane pests, has caused wide ecological disruption across the country.
“Any conservation translocation must be justified, with development of clear objectives, identification and assessment of risks, and with measures of performance. These Guidelines are an essential tool for any proposed conservation translocation; they are based on principle rather than example, and offer a platform to make an informed decision about this increasingly common conservation intervention” says Dr Mark Stanley Price, Chair of the IUCN SSC Sub-Committee for Species Conservation Planning.
Translocation is usually considered a last resort by wildlife conservationists, but as the world’s biodiversity faces the incessant threats of habitat loss, invasive species and climate change, this type of conservation intervention will become more frequent all over the world. The Council of Europe has based its November 2012 Recommendation No. 158 (2012) of the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention on “Conservation translocations under changing climatic conditions” on the new IUCN Guidelines. Further, the Turner Endangered Species Fund of the USA and the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds have already used the Guidelines for their own planning purposes. More....