Translocate adult or juvenile reptiles: Tuatara
Overall effectiveness category Awaiting assessment
Number of studies: 4
Background information and definitions
Translocations involve the intentional capture, movement and release of wild-caught reptiles into the wild to re-establish a population that has been lost, or to augment an existing population. This can reduce the risk of inbreeding; help safeguard small populations from extinction due to catastrophic events and/or increase the occupied range. Translocations can also be used to move reptiles to areas where threats have been removed, such as islands where invasive predators have been eradicated. However, translocations are typically expensive and may risk spreading pathogens to previously unexposed areas.
Release techniques vary considerably, from ‘hard releases’ involving the simple release of individuals into the wild, to ‘soft releases’ that involve a variety of adaptation and acclimatisation techniques before release or post-release feeding and care.
This action includes studies which may combine different release techniques, but studies that explicitly test these different techniques are summarized separately under Use holding pens or enclosures at release site prior to release of wild reptiles; Use holding pens or enclosures at release site prior to release of captive-bred reptiles and Release reptiles into burrows.
This action includes the translocation of wild juvenile or adult reptiles. Relocations of eggs and nests, releases of captive bred individuals and releases of head-started individuals (reptiles of wild-origin reared in captivity prior to release) are discussed under: Relocate nests/eggs; Release captive-bred reptiles into the wild; Head-start wild-caught reptiles for release and Release reptiles born/hatched in captivity from wild-collected eggs/wild-caught females without rearing. For studies that release reptiles outside of their native range see Release reptiles outside of their native range.
Translocations that are carried out to mitigate against specific threats (for example translocating problem individuals away from a specific area, or translocating individuals away from development areas) are summarized under Mitigation translocations – Translocate problem reptiles; Translocate reptiles away from threats and Temporarily move reptiles away from short-term threats.
Due to the number of studies found, this action has been split by species group, though no studies were found for amphisbaenians. See here for: Sea turtles; Tortoises, terrapins, side-necked & softshell turtles; Snakes; Lizards or Crocodilians.
Supporting evidence from individual studies
A controlled study in 1995–2000 on an island in New Zealand (Nelson et al. 2002) found that most translocated tuatara Sphenodon guntheri survived at least five years following release but did successfully breed. Eleven of 18 adults (61%) were recaptured over six years following release, as well as 28 of 50 head-started juveniles (56%). Following translocation, adults increased in weight by 41%, and two years after translocation they were heavier than equivalent length individuals from the founder population. No successful breeding was observed during the six-year period, though tuatara are an extremely long-lived species (up to 100 years). In November 1995, eighteen adults (11 females, 7 males) were translocated from North Brother Island to Titi Island (a rodent free island), along with 50 head-started juveniles. Tuatara were released into artificial burrows at night (2,100–2,230 h). Six post-release monitoring trips were conducted between November 1995 and November 2000, when a team of 3–4 people spent up to seven nights on the island searching for tuatara.Study and other actions tested
A study in 1996–2005 on an offshore island in New Zealand (Towns 2005) found that a population of tuatara Sphenodon punctatus translocated to an island where invasive species had been eradicated survived at least nine years and bred. Numbers of tuatara were estimated to be approximately 50 individuals nine years after they were first released. At least two separate clutches of offspring (indicated by several different sized juveniles) were observed on the island. In 1996, thirty-two adult tuatara were translocated to Motuhora (Whale Island; 143 ha). European rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus and black rats Rattus rattus were eradicated from the island using poison bait (Bromadialone, Brodifacoum and 1080 poison) and lethal traps in 1985–1987 (see original paper for details).Study and other actions tested
A review of worldwide reptile translocation projects during 1991–2006 (Germano & Bishop 2009) found that a third were considered successful with substantial recruitment to the adult population. Of the 47 translocation projects reviewed (39 reptile species), 32% were successful, 28% failed and long-term success was uncertain for the remaining 40%. Projects that translocated animals due to human-wildlife conflicts failed more often (63% of 8 projects) than those for conservation purposes (15% of 38) and those for research purposes (50% of 5). Success was independent of the source of animals (wild, captive, and combination), life-stage translocated, number of animals released and geographic region (see original paper for details). Translocated animals were adults in 75% of cases, juveniles and sub-adults in 64% of cases and eggs in 4% of cases. Wild animals were translocated in 93% of projects. The most common reported cause of failure was homing and migration with the second most common reported cause being insufficient numbers, human collection and food/nutrient limitation all equally reported. Success was defined as evidence of substantial recruitment to the adult population during monitoring over a period at least as long as it takes the species to reach maturity.Study and other actions tested
A study in 2012–2013 in regenerating temperate forest in South Island, New Zealand (Jarvie et al. 2015) found that most translocated and captive-reared tuatara Sphenodon punctatus survived at least 9 months in the wild. After 3–6 months, all translocated and almost all captive-reared and released tuatara survived (translocated: 100%, captive-reared: 96–100% survival rate). After 9–12 months, survival rates of translocated tuatara (73%) were highest, followed by tuatara reared north of the release site (70%) and locally-reared and released tuatara survival rates were lowest (67%, result was not statistically compared). See original paper for comparisons of growth rates, post-release dispersal and home range sizes between wild-caught, locally-reared and north-reared tuatara. Juvenile tuatara originating from the same wild population were released into a predator-free fenced reserve in October–December 2012: wild-caught from an island 570 km north of the release site (14 individuals), captive-reared locally to the release site (13 individuals), and captive-reared 480 km north of the release site in a warmer climate (28 individuals). Captive-reared tuatara were hatched from artificially incubated eggs and head started until 4–6 years old. Artificial burrows were buried in the release area. Tuatara were monitored by radio-tracking for 5 months (10 wild-caught, 6 locally-reared, 10 north-reared individuals) and recapture surveys for up to 27 months after release.Study and other actions tested