Individual study: Reintroduction success of Persian fallow deer Dama mesopotamica to Nahal Kziv Nature Reserve, upper west Galilee, Israel
Bar-David S., Saltz D., Dayan T., Perelberg A. & Dolev A. (2005) Demographic models and reality in reintroductions: Persian fallow deer in Israel. Conservation Biology, 19, 131-138
Reintroduction programs may rely on data from other species or captive populations to predict reintroduction success in the wild. This study compared reproductive success and survival of Persian fallow deer Dama mesopotamica reintroduced in Israel over the first 5 years, with survival and reproduction parameters estimated while planning the reintroduction, and actual growth of the wild population compared with that projected by a computer model.
Release site and reintroduction procedure: The fallow deer were reintroduced in and around the Nahal Kziv Nature Reserve (35°23'S, 33°33'E), in the upper west Galilee region, northern Israel. The reserve is a 15 km-long by 1 km-wide gorge along the Kziv Stream. The reintroduction project followed IUCN reintroduction guidelines and was based on a long-term approach.
The program consisted of transfers from a permanent captive breeding population in Israel, to a habituation enclosure at the release site, with subsequent "soft" releases into the wild. The research team monitored 74 radio-collared deer (57 females; 17 males) released semi-annually from 1996 to 2001.
Survival and reproduction: Survivorship for radio-collared deer was recorded, and reproduction assessed through direct observations, video recordings, pellets, and tracks to determine the presence of fawns.
Comparisons of actual survival and reproduction with that predicted: The study compared reproductive success, survival and growth of the reintroduced population of deer over the first 5 years, with survival and reproduction parameters estimated while planning the reintroduction, and actual growth of the wild population as compared with that projected by a computer model.
Between 1996 and 2001, 124 deer were released, of which 74 (57 females and 17 males) were radio collared. Of the 50 uncollared deer, 49 were males.
Survival: Most mortalities (due to a number of causes) of radio-collared deer (12 out of 14) occurred during the first year after release; survival was higher in later years (0.90 and 0.82 versus 0.95 and 0.88, for females and males, respectively); overall survival was higher than originally projected.
Reproduction: Fawns were observed between April and July in the wild in first fawning season after release. These fawns were born to females that were already pregnant upon release. As assumed in the reintroduction program, reproductive success improved with time since release, but was higher than expected. Overall, the growth of the reintroduced population was slower than projected, but despite this, after 5 years it appears that the time frame of 8–10 years for project completion (targets including around 120 adult females in the wild) is more-or-less achievable.
The authors conclude that over the first 5 years post-release, the projection model was quite successful and may therefore be similarly useful in other reintroduction programs to assess potential project success.
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