Challenges to Reintroduction

Unfortunately, there are many challenges to carrying out an effective reintroduction program. As previously mentioned, they can be a huge drain of money, time, and resources, with no guarantee of success. Luckily, there are many motivated individuals in this world who are always looking for ways to overcome these obstacles. Below, we will explore some of the difficulties of reintroduction, as well as recent advances and solutions for them.

Even with the most dedicated researchers and conservationists involved, a reintroduction effort cannot be successful without the support of people living near the introduction sites. One example of this is the story of the Arabian Oryx.  By 1972, this species was declared to be extinct in the wild due to so much poaching. Captive breeding efforts began at this time and proved to be very successful. However, once the animals were reintroduced into Middle Eastern countries, poaching again became a problem. At a site in Oman, at least 200 of the 400 oryx of the population were poached in a three year period. Thankfully, other sites have had greater success at keeping out poachers, and the Arabian Oryx’s current population is over 1,000 individuals!

Another challenge of reintroduction is facing obstacles of nature, such as droughts, floods, and diseases, that are difficult, if not impossible, to predict. The most effective way for scientists to combat this is to have a stable, genetically-diverse captive populations from which they can choose individuals to be reintroduced. The Species Survival Plan (SSP) is a program that keeps track of what individuals of certain species at what zoos, who they are related to, and who they are breeding with, in order to maintain a healthy captive population. If the reintroduced animals encounter a natural disaster, it is more likely that some of them will survive if they are healthy and not too closely related.

Finally, it can be a challenge to keep track of the animals once they are reintroduced. Scientists must collect necessary information, such as how many animals are still alive, where they are found, and if they are breeding, in order to figure out if the program is working or not. After all, it would not make sense to keep releasing captive animals if they are not surviving long enough to have babies. Sometimes, animals are marked with a plastic tag or band to identify them. This then requires people to go out looking for those animals. Other times, radio collars can be used to track the exact movements of individuals, but they can be expensive and may bother the animals. For some species, it is possible for scientists to determine how the animals are doing without ever seeing them again, by looking for their scat, den sites, and other traces they leave behind. Once again, this takes a lot of work done by dedicated people to get this kind of valuable information.

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CAC is a program of the Institute for the Study of Human-Animal Relations at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY.