Les hommes ont oublié cette vérité. Mais tu ne dois pas l'oublier, dit le renard. Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé.
Le Petit Prince, chap. 21

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Teaching wallabies to avoid cats and foxes

McLean, I. G., G. Lundie-Jenkins & P.J. Jarman. 1996. Teaching an endangered mammal to recognise predators. Biological Conservation, 75(1): 51-62.

The possibility of conditioning captive-reared animals to fear predators prior to release into the wild is often discussed, but rarely attempted. Here we show that captive-reared rufous hare-wallabies Lagorchestes hirsutus, a species of marsupial that became extinct in the Australian mainland in 1991, become more cautious after conditioning to fear predators that they will encounter after release. The predators, cats and foxes, are not historical enemies of hare-wallabies, but captive-reared predator-naïve rufous hare-wallabies reacted cautiously to them in captivity, suggesting either some genetic recognition abilities for a generalised mammalian predator, or perhaps that hare-wallabies are simply generally cautious in the presence of an unknown animal. Rufous hare-wallabies became even more cautious after two conditioning techniques were used to teach them to associate a fright with a fox or cat. We suggest that conditioning about predators may be a valuable adjunct to many management programmes involving release of predator-naïve endangered animals.

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