By Kevin Heath
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has released the latest volume of case studies involving the re-introduction of endangered species. The 298 page book is available to download free of charge in pdf format. It covers 236 re-introduction programmes and is the 4th in a series from the Reintroduction Specialists Group. The book is Global Re-Introduction Perspective: 2013.
The 236 projects examined spans the globe and include a wide range of different re-introduction projects. From the re-planting of mangrove swamps to the re-wilding of orang-utans the book records the level of succeed that was accomplished or the current level of success.
One of the projects in the book is the replanting of mangroves in the Indus Delta, Pakistan. Over 800,000 seedlings were planted in just 24 hours by over 300 volunteers from local communities. Also featured in the book is the re-introduction of Pere David’s deer into China. A number of reserves were established across the country and many are now hold capacity populations of the species.
There are two projects from the UK featured in the book. Both invertebrate species and both classified as ‘partially successful’.
The first project is the highly media friendly re-introduction of the Fen Raft Spider. A collaboration of 10 zoos and organisations is involved in the re-introduction of the species across England and Wales. It is one of the largest spiders in the UK and was confined to just 3 natural habitats (2 in England and 1 in Wales). It is one of just 2 spider species that has full protection under UK wildlife laws.
The species has been subject to a Species Action Plan since 1999 and the aim is to establish 12 populations from the current 3 by 2020. Two sites had be established by 2010 and breeding by 2012 suggested densities could be considered to be at natural population levels
The second UK project featured in the book is the re-introduction of the UK’s mainland rarest animal, the Red Barbed Ant. With just 2 known nest population on Cobham Common the project aims to strengthen the species by trans-locating ants from a strong local population on the Isle of Scilly.
This project has again be classified as ‘partially successful’ because the first releases reveal that competitor ants Lasius niger were far stronger in out-competiting the Red Barbed Ant than first envisage. It is through that near complete nests sizes will need to be established to enable the Red Barbed Ants to fight off the Lasius niger ants and to secure the nests. This will probably mean having to import Red Barbed Ants from mainland Europe where they are more abundant and genetic testing and research is underway.
Financial support from the Environment Agency-ABU DHABI (EAD) and the Denver Zoological Foundation (DZF) has enabled the book to be compiled and made freely available for download.
“Whilst it is encouraging to see that re-introductions and translocations are widely used as conservation tools for many taxa, it is also an indication that the pressure on species is increasing, and that quality habitats and space available for species is decreasing; either through direct competition from alternative land-use or through climate change and its associated effects” said Frédéric Launay, Chair of the IUCN SSC Re-introduction Specialist Group.
IUCN Redlist: Global Re-introduction Perspectives: 2013 (pdf download).
IUCN/SSC Reintroduction Specialist Group