Individual study: Teaching captive-reared rufous hare-wallabies Lagorchestes hirsutus to recognise mammal predators, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia
McLean I., Lundie-Jenkins G. & Jarman P.J. (1996) Teaching an endangered mammal to recognise predators. Biological Conservation, 75, 51-62
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Train captive-bred mammals to avoid predators
A before-and-after study in 1992 on captive animals at a site in Australia (McLean et al. 1996) found that rufous hare-wallabies Lagorchestes hirsutus could be conditioned to become wary of potential predators. Hare-wallabies spent more time out of sight of a model of a fox Vulpes vulpes or cat Felis catus after being subject to aversive conditioning (37–45%) than before (27–33%). Observations were made on 22 captive hare-wallabies. Training involved either a cat or fox model. One version appeared from a box at the same time as a loud noise and moved across the pen, accompanied by a recording of hare-wallaby alarm calls. The other model version jumped at hare-wallabies that approached to ≤3 m, with the animal squirted from a water pistol at the same time. Initial data collection was carried out over three nights, training (use of aversion techniques) was over three nights and subsequent behaviour in the presence of the model was measured on one night. Experiments were conducted in September–October 1992.
(Summarised by Nick Littlewood)