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The effect of pre-release captivity on post-release performance in reintroduced eastern bettongs Bettongia gaimardi

  • William G. Batson (a1), Iain J. Gordon (a2), Donald B. Fletcher (a3) and Adrian D. Manning (a1)

Reintroductions are used to re-establish populations of species within their indigenous range, but their outcomes are variable. A key decision when developing a reintroduction strategy is whether to include a temporary period of confinement prior to release. Pre-release confinement is primarily used for the purpose of quarantine or as a delayed-release tactic to influence the performance or behaviour of founders post-release. A common difference between these approaches is that quarantine tends to be conducted in ex situ captivity, whereas delayed releases tend to involve in situ confinement at the release site. Although these practices are commonly viewed independently, it may be possible for a single confinement period to be used for both purposes. We tested whether temporarily holding wild eastern bettongs Bettongia gaimardi in ex situ captivity for 95–345 days prior to release (delayed release) influenced their body mass, pouch occupancy or survival during the first 1.5 years post-release, compared to founders released without confinement (immediate release). Our results suggest that exposing founders to captivity did not alter their body mass or performance post-release, despite being heavier and having fewer pouch young when released. We conclude that, for this species, ex situ captivity does not represent a tactical opportunity to improve post-release performance but can be used for quarantine without affecting the probability of establishment.

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