Success and Ongoing Efforts
It can be difficult to define success in terms of a
reintroduction program. For example, if 20 animals are reintroduced
and half of them die within a few months, is this a success or
One way to approach this issue is to look at the current
population numbers based on the population before reintroduction.
For example, the black-footed ferret only had 18 known
individuals in its wild population in 1981. Now, thanks to multiple
different reintroduction sites, there are close to 1,000 individual
ferrets wild in the U.S. Even though many more ferrets were
introduced than survived in the wild, the program can still be
considered a success in reestablishing the population of a species
once believed to have been extinct in the wild.
Another way to evaluate the success of a reintroduction
is to look at the quality of life of the animals in the wild
compared to in captivity. A classic example of this point is the
story of Keiko the killer whale from the Free Willy
movies. About $20 million over the course of 5 years were spent
trying to rehabilitate him to be able to live in the wild. He was
able to successfully swim nearly 1,000 miles on his own before
spending the last year of his life being cared for by trainers but
free to come and go as he pleased.
Some say that the program was a
failure because Keiko spent only a few months completely independent
of humans, but it can also be argued that Keikoís quality of life
improved drastically, from being confined in a tank to being able to
swim wherever he wanted to.
Dr. Devra Kleiman, who played a major role in starting
the reintroduction of golden lion tamarins in Brazil,
developed a list of criteria needed for a reintroduction to be
successful. This list included first having a self-sustaining
captive population, protected habitat, and funding before beginning
the introduction, as well as ways to monitor the animals after the
reintroduction and to educate the local people about them.
criteria are exemplified in the Golden Lion Tamarinís story. Once at
only a few hundred individuals, the population now consists of 1,600
animals in Brazil. There is also now strong national pride in
efforts to save this species.
Test your knowledge of determining the success of a reintroduction