Skip to main content

Walking on their own legs: unassisted population growth of the agouti Dasyprocta leporina, reintroduced to restore seed dispersal in an Atlantic Forest reserve

  • Caio Fittipaldi Kenup (a1), Raíssa Sepulvida (a1), Catharina Kreischer (a1) and Fernando A. S. Fernandez (a1)

Reintroduction of locally extirpated species is an increasingly popular conservation tool. However, few initiatives focus on the restoration of ecological processes. In addition, many reintroductions fail to conduct post-release monitoring, hampering both assessment of their success and implementation of adaptive management actions. In 2009 a reintroduction effort was initiated to re-establish a population of the red-rumped agouti Dasyprocta leporina, a scatter-hoarding rodent known to be an important disperser of large seeds, with the aim of restoring ecological processes at Tijuca National Park, south-east Brazil. To assess whether this reintroduced population established successfully we monitored it using mark–resighting during November 2013–March 2015. Population size and survival were estimated using a robust design Poisson-log normal mixed-effects mark–resight model. By March 2015 the number of wild-born individuals fluctuated around 30 and overall growth of the population was positive. As the reintroduced population is capable of unassisted growth, we conclude that the reintroduction has been successful in the medium term. We recommend the cessation of releases, with efforts redirected to continued monitoring, investigation and management of possible threats to the species’ persistence, and to quantification of the re-establishment of ecological processes. Reintroduction of D. leporina populations can be a cost-effective tool to restore ecological processes, especially seed dispersal, in Neotropical forests.

Corresponding author
(Corresponding author) E-mail
Hide All
Supplementary material for this article can be found at
Hide All
Armstrong D.P. & Reynolds M.H. (2012) Modelling reintroduced populations: the state of the art and future directions. In Reintroduction Biology: Integrating Science and Management (eds Ewen J.G., Armstrong D.P., Parker K.A. & Seddon P.J.), pp. 165222. Wiley–Blackwell, Oxford, UK.
Armstrong D.P. & Seddon P.J. (2008) Directions in reintroduction biology. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 23, 2025.
Asquith N.M., Terborgh J., Arnold A.E. & Riveros C.M. (1999) The fruits the agouti ate: Hymenaea courbaril seed fate when its disperser is absent. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 15, 229235.
Bar-David S., Saltz D. & Dayan T. (2005) Predicting the spatial dynamics of a reintroduced population: the Persian fallow deer. Ecological Applications, 15, 18331846.
Bello C., Galetti M., Pizo M.A., Magnago L.F.S., Rocha M.F., Lima R.A.F. et al. (2015) Defaunation affects carbon storage in tropical forests. Science Advances, 1, e1501105,
Canale G.R., Peres C.A., Guidorizzi C.E., Gatto C.A.F. & Kierulff M.C.M. (2012) Pervasive defaunation of forest remnants in a tropical biodiversity hotspot. PLoS ONE, 7(8), e41671.
Carson W.P., Anderson J.T., Leigh E.G. Jr & Schnitzer S.A. (2008) Challenges associated with testing and falsifying the Janzen–Connell hypothesis: a review and critique. In Tropical Forest Community Ecology (eds Carson W. & Schnitzer S.), pp. 210241. Wiley–Blackwell, Oxford, UK.
Caughley G. (1994) Directions in conservation biology. Journal of Animal Ecology, 63, 215244.
Cid B., Figueira L., Mello A.F.T., Pires A.S. & Fernandez F.A.S. (2014) Short-term success in the reintroduction of the red-humped agouti Dasyprocta leporina, an important seed disperser, in a Brazilian Atlantic Forest reserve. Tropical Conservation Science, 7, 796810.
Coimbra-Filho A.F., Aldrighi A.D. & Martins H.F. (1973) Nova contribuição ao restabelecimento da fauna do Parque Nacional da Tijuca, GB, Brasil. Brasil Florestal, 4, 725.
Connell J.H. (1971) On the role of natural enemies in preventing competitive exclusion in some marine animals and in the rain forest trees. In Dynamics of Populations (eds den Boer P.J. & Gradwell R.), pp. 298310. Centre for Agriculture Publications and Documentation, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Converse S.J., Moore C.T. & Armstrong D.P. (2013) Demographics of reintroduced populations: estimation, modeling, and decision analysis. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 77, 10811093.
Dirzo R., Young H.S., Galetti M., Ceballos G., Isaac N.J.B. & Collen B. (2014) Defaunation in the Anthropocene. Science, 345, 401406.
Emmonds L. & Reid F. (2016) Dasyprocta leporina. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T89497102A22197762. Https:// [accessed 21 November 2016].
Fischer J. & Lindenmayer D.B. (2000) An assessment of the published results of animal relocations. Biological Conservation, 96, 111.
Forget P.M. (1990) Seed-dispersal of Vouacapoua americana (Caesalpiniaceae) by caviomorph rodents in French Guiana. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 6, 459468.
Foster R.J. & Harmsen B.J. (2012) A critique of density estimation from camera-trap data. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 76, 224236.
Galetti M., Bovendorp R.S. & Guevara R. (2015) Defaunation of large mammals leads to an increase in seed predation in the Atlantic forests. Global Ecology and Conservation, 3, 824830.
Galetti M., Donatti C.I., Steffler C., Genini J., Bovendorp R.S. & Fleury M. (2010) The role of seed mass on the caching decision by agoutis, Dasyprocta leporina (Rodentia: Agoutidae). Zoologia (Curitiba) , 27, 472476.
Hadow H.H. (1972) Freeze-branding: a permanent marking technique for pigmented mammals. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 36, 645649.
Hirsch B.T., Kays R., Pereira V.E., Jansen P.A. & Rejmanek M. (2012) Directed seed dispersal towards areas with low conspecific tree density by a scatter-hoarding rodent. Ecology Letters, 15, 14231429.
ICMBio (Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade) (2008) Plano de Manejo: Parque Nacional da Tijuca. Ministério do Meio Ambiente, Brasília, Brazil.
Ishii Y. & Shimada M. (2010) The effect of learning and search images on predator–prey interactions. Population Ecology, 52, 2735.
IUCN/SSC (2013) Guidelines for Reintroductions and other Conservation Translocations. IUCN/Species Survival Commission Reintroduction Specialist Group, Gland, Switzerland.
Jansen P.A., Hirsch B.T., Emsens W-J., Zamora-Gutierrez V., Wikelski M. & Kays R. (2012) Thieving rodents as substitute dispersers of megafaunal seeds. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109, 1261012615.
Janzen D.H. (1970) Herbivores and the number of tree species in tropical forests. American Naturalist, 104, 501528.
Jule K.R., Leaver L.A. & Lea S.E.G. (2008) The effects of captive experience on reintroduction survival in carnivores: a review and analysis. Biological Conservation, 141, 355363.
Lipsey M.K. & Child M.F. (2007) Combining the fields of reintroduction biology and restoration ecology. Conservation Biology, 21, 13871390.
McClintock B.T. & White G.C. (2009) A less field-intensive robust design for estimating demographic parameters with mark–resight data. Ecology, 90, 313320.
Molinari-Jobin A., Marboutin E., Wölfl S., Wölfl M., Molinari P., Fasel M. et al. (2010) Recovery of the Alpine lynx Lynx lynx metapopulation. Oryx, 44, 267275.
Nichols J.D. & Armstrong D.P. (2012) Monitoring for reintroductions. In Reintroduction Biology: Integrating Science and Management (eds Ewen J.G., Armstrong D.P., Parker K.A. & Seddon P.J.), pp. 223255. Wiley–Blackwell, Oxford, UK.
Oliveira-Santos L.G.R. & Fernandez F.A.S. (2010) Pleistocene rewilding, Frankenstein ecosystems, and an alternative conservation agenda. Conservation Biology, 24, 45.
Ostermann S.D., Deforge J.R. & Edge W.D. (2001) Captive breeding and reintroduction evaluation criteria: a case study of peninsular bighorn sheep. Conservation Biology, 15, 749760.
Pádua J.A. (2002) Um sopro de destruição: pensamento político e crítica ambiental no Brasil escravista, 1786–1888. Zahar, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Pires A.S. & Galetti M. (2012) The agouti Dasyprocta leporina (Rodentia: Dasyproctidae) as seed disperser of the palm Astrocaryum aculeatissimum . Mastozoología Neotropical, 19, 147153.
Polak T. & Saltz D. (2011) Reintroduction as an ecosystem restoration technique. Conservation Biology, 25, 424.
R Development Core Team (2016) R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing. Vienna, Austria.
Reis N.R., Peracchi A.L., Pedro W.A. & Lima I.P. (2006) Mamíferos do Brasil. Universidade Estadual de Londrina, Londrina, Brazil.
Reynolds M.H., Hatfield J.S., Laniawe L.P., Vekasy M.S., Klavitter J.L., Berkowitz P. et al. (2012) Influence of space use on fitness and the reintroduction success of the Laysan teal. Animal Conservation, 15, 305317.
Sarrazin F. (2007) Introductory remarks: a demographic frame for reintroductions. Ecoscience, 144, ivv.
Schaub M., Zink R., Beissmann H., Sarrazin F. & Arlettaz R. (2009) When to end releases in reintroduction programmes: demographic rates and population viability analysis of bearded vultures in the Alps. Journal of Applied Ecology, 46, 92100.
Seddon P.J., Griffiths C.J., Soorae P.S. & Armstrong D.P. (2014) Reversing defaunation: restoring species in a changing world. Science, 345, 406412.
Silvius K.M. & Fragoso J.M.V. (2003) Red-rumped agouti (Dasyprocta leporina) home range use in an Amazonian forest: implications for the aggregated distribution of forest trees. Biotropica, 35, 7483.
Smythe N. (1978) The natural history of the Central American agouti. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology, 257, 152.
Tavecchia G., Viedma C., Martínez-Abraín A., Bartolomé M.A., Gómez J.A. & Oro D. (2009) Maximizing re-introduction success: assessing the immediate cost of release in a threatened waterfowl. Biological Conservation, 142, 30053012.
Taylor S.S., Jamieson I.G. & Armstrong D.P. (2005) Successful island reintroductions of New Zealand robins and saddlebacks with small numbers of founders. Animal Conservation, 8, 415420.
Varty N. & Guadagnin D.L. (1998) Vouacapoua Americana. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 1998: e.T33918A9820054. Https:// [accessed 21 November 2016].
White G.C. & Burnham K.P. (1999) Program MARK: survival estimation from populations of marked animals. Bird Study, 46 (Supplement), 120138.
Williams B.K., Nichols J.D. & Conroy M.J. (2002) Analysis and Management of Animal Populations: Modeling, Estimation and Decision Making. Academic Press, San Diego, USA.
Zucaratto R. (2013) Os frutos que as cutias comiam: recrutamento da palmeira Astrocaryum aculeatissimum na ausência de seu principal dispersor de sementes. MSc thesis. Universidade Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro, Seropédica, Brazil.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0030-6053
  • EISSN: 1365-3008
  • URL: /core/journals/oryx
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Type Description Title
Supplementary Materials

Kenup supplementary material
Figure S1 and Tables S1-S11

 PDF (856 KB)
856 KB


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 1
Total number of PDF views: 44 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 685 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 15th February 2017 - 11th December 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.