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Improving translocation success: an experimental study of anti-stress treatment and release method for wild rabbits

  • Jérôme Letty (a1), Stéphane Marchandeau (a2), Jean Clobert (a1) and Jack Aubineau (a2)

Abstract

Translocation is an important tool in conservation biology. However, translocation success is generally low for numerous animal species, therefore experiments are required for improvement. We carried out an experimental translocation of European wild rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). The results may be of great interest for conservation biology, although we used a common species. As rabbits are known to experience a high mortality during the first days following release, it was necessary to assess the influence of handling trauma and environment novelty, respectively, and ways of suppressing them. Both tranquillization treatment during handling and a ‘soft’ release protocol (acclimatization pens in the new territory) were tested. Tranquillization did not increase survival, while the effect of acclimatization depended on sex. Females survived better when acclimatized, while males showed the opposite tendency. This difference is discussed in terms of sex-specific social behaviour, which is possibly an important correlate of translocation success. Finally, environmental stress seemed to override handling stress in determining the level of early survival for translocated wild rabbits.

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Corresponding author

Jérôme Letty, Office National de la Chasse, Direction de la Recherche et du Développement, 53 rue Russeil, 44000 Nantes, France. Tel: (00 33) 2 51 25 03 95; Fax: (00 33) 2 40 48 14 01; E-mail: j.letty@onc.gouv.fr.

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Improving translocation success: an experimental study of anti-stress treatment and release method for wild rabbits

  • Jérôme Letty (a1), Stéphane Marchandeau (a2), Jean Clobert (a1) and Jack Aubineau (a2)

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