Wildlife & Biodiversity

Wildlife translocation programmes benefit if they incorporate human dimensions: Study

However, despite the recognised importance of human dimensions, these factors are still largely missing from many conservation initiatives

By Madhumita Paul
Published: Friday 28 April 2023

One of the cheetahs released into a boma at Kuno National Park on September 17, 2022. Photo: @narendramodi / TwitterOne of the cheetahs released into a boma at Kuno National Park on September 17, 2022. Photo: @narendramodi / Twitter

Efforts to translocate wildlife benefit if human-related factors, biological and environmental considerations are incorporated, according to a new study by the University of California-Berkeley (UCB).

Wildlife translocation is the intentional movement of animals for conservation purposes. It has been used as a technique to mitigate the loss and depletion of endangered species.

But the success or failure of translocating wildlife depends on which species is being shifted; whether it can survive in its new habitat and breed successfully as well as the amount of time and resources being allocated to the process. 

The failure of a translocation programme can lead to distrust between stakeholders; the loss of resources and even the extinction or extirpation of entire populations or species.

Past and present translocation programmes have illustrated this. 

Four cheetahs were translocated from South Africa to Liwonde National Park in Malawi in 2017, thus ending the species’ 20-year absence in the country.

Malawi’s cheetah population has been steadily growing since then which is a major conservation success for a species that is considered as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

On the other hand, at least three incidents of lion translocation have been taken up across the world including two in India and all three have failed.

The ongoing Project Cheetah by the Government of India has also suffered setbacks recently. 

Uday, a six-year-old male cheetah brought to Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park from South Africa earlier this year, died of cardiac failure April 23, 2023. Last month, Namibian cheetah Sasha died at Kuno following renal failure. 

Anthropogenic angle

Another important factor on which the success of wildlife translocations hinges is coexistence with people. Human dimensions are considered integral to the design, implementation and evaluation of wildlife translocations according to the IUCN Guidelines for Reintroductions and Other Translocations.

However, despite the recognised importance of human dimensions, these factors are still largely missing from many conservation initiatives, according to the UCB study.

The researchers synthesised information from case studies reported in the IUCN Global Re-Introduction Perspective Series to identify relationships between the inclusion of human dimension objectives in wildlife translocation efforts and programme outcomes.

They analysed 305 case studies of wildlife translocations from seven IUCN reports published between 2008 and 2021, to evaluate the prevalence and associated outcomes of including human dimensions as objectives when planning translocations.

Most case studies occurred in North America, Asia, Oceania, Europe, Africa and South America.

Of the 305 case studies, 127 case studies (42 per cent) included human dimension objectives when planning their translocation.

The study found that translocation efforts that included human dimension objectives were significantly more likely to have a positive outcome than the translocation efforts that did not include human dimension objectives.

Of the six key strategies the study identified for including human dimension objectives, education was the most common, followed by engaging locals, providing economic benefits, increasing social tolerance, enforcing regulations and supplying cultural benefits.

The study results underscore the importance of human dimensions in wildlife translocation success, revealing that translocations and conservation efforts benefit from incorporating human-related factors along with biological and environmental considerations.

The Third International Conservation Translocation Conference (ICTC) 2023 will be held from November 13-15, 2023 in Fremantle, Western Australia.

ICTC is a premier conservation translocation science event, linked to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Conservation Translocation Specialist Group (previously the Reintroduction Specialist Group), part of the IUCN Species Survival Commission.

The UCB study was published in the journal Nature Communications April 25, 2023.

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