Individual study: Reducing predation of reintroduced, captive-bred houbara bustards Chlamydotis undulata through pre-release anti-predator training, Mahazat as-Said protected area, Saudi Arabia
van Heezik Y., Seddon P.J. & Maloney R.F. (1999) Helping reintroduced houbara bustards avoid predation: effective anti-predator training and the predictive value of pre-release behaviour. Animal Conservation, 2, 155-163
This study is summarised as evidence for the intervention(s) shown on the right. The icon shows which synopsis it is relevant to.
Use ‘anti-predator training’ to improve survival after release
A small trial in Saudi Arabia in 1995-7 (van Heezik et al. 1999) found that captive-bred houbara bustards Chlamydotis undulata macqueenii released at a desert site were significantly more likely to avoid predation if they were exposed to a live fox Vulpes vulpes in their cages before release, compared to control birds (raised without contact with predators) (44% of 18 predator-trained birds killed by predators vs. 83% of 18 controls). However, exposing birds to a model fox which ‘lunged’ at the birds had no impact on post-release survival (53% of 15 model-trained birds killed by predators vs. 36% of 11 controls). Survival of birds exposed to a live fox was also higher than for birds reared with puppets to minimise human contact (42% of 12 puppet-reared birds predated, see ‘Use puppets to increase the survival or growth of hand-reared chicks’ for details). Exposure to the fox consisted of introducing a hand-reared fox into the birds’ cage on a leash for between 40 seconds and 15 minutes (depending on how aggressive the fox was). There were 12 training sessions, with the fox muzzled for eight of them. Three birds were seriously injured during training, one of which later died (birds were then moved to larger cages and the fox more tightly muzzled which prevented any further injuries).
Use puppets to increase the survival or growth of hand-reared chicks
A replicated trial in Saudi Arabia in 1995 (van Heezik et al. 1999) found that hand-reared houbara bustards Chlamydotis undulata macqueenii raised with a puppet to minimise human contact were not significantly more likely to survive following release at a desert site, than control (reared with human contact) birds (42% of 12 puppet-reared birds alive the year after release vs. 27% of 12 controls). This study also is also discussed in ‘Use ‘anti-predator training’ to improve survival after release’.