Help at hand to relocate threatened species

Help at hand to relocate threatened species

SYDNEY - Australian and New Zealand scientists Thursday said they have devised the “first rigorous framework” on deciding whether to relocate endangered animals threatened with extinction by climate change.

The researchers said it was designed to quantify whether the benefit of moving a vulnerable species outweighed the ecological cost.

With rapidly changing climatic conditions around the world, the framework aims to help wildlife managers make the difficult decision on whether to move animals into new areas or leave them in places that may become uninhabitable.

The researchers have “test-driven” the new framework using the hypothetical case of the New Zealand tuatara, the country’s largest reptile, which could be moved from its home on small offshore islands in the north of the country to the South Island, where it is currently extinct.

“With the climate changing more rapidly than species can move or adapt, our only chance of saving some species may be to move them to more climatically suitable areas,” said lead author and environmental scientist Tracy Rout from the University of Melbourne.

“But introducing species to areas outside their historical range is a controversial strategy, and we have to be sure it will work, both for the animals themselves, and for other species in their new habitat.”

The work follows a request by the International Union for Conservation of Nature for a new process to assess species relocation.

The resulting study, published Thursday in the journal PLOS ONE, takes some of the guesswork out of the decision-making.

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