Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 229–243 | Cite as

Searching for an effective pre-release screening tool for translocations: can trap temperament predict behaviour and survival in the wild?

  • R. S. WestEmail author
  • D. T. Blumstein
  • M. Letnic
  • K. E. Moseby
Original Paper


Individuals often respond to threatening situations in consistently different ways and these differences may predict later translocation success. Thus, the ability to easily identify these differences prior to translocation may assist in improving conservation outcomes. We asked whether burrowing bettongs (Bettongia lesueur), a marsupial species that has undergone significant decline since the introduction of exotic predators to Australia, responded in consistently different ways to capture in traps, and if so, whether this was related to anti-predator behaviour, ranging behaviour and survival following translocation. Behavioural responses of 40 bettongs were measured and included response to removal from traps (trap docility), latency to leave a trap or bag and escape behaviour upon release. We used flight initiation distance to measure escape behaviour, and distance moved from diurnal refuges during nocturnal foraging to measure ranging behaviour. Survival was measured through radiotracking after release. Behaviours scored during removal from a trap were consistent and repeatable, and formed a behavioural syndrome with anti-predator and ranging behaviour. Less docile bettongs foraged closer to refuges and had longer flight initiation distances. Less docile bettongs were also more likely to survive after release, although the sample size of mortalities was small. Our results suggest that behaviours scored during trapping could be a useful metric for pre-release screening in translocation programs to enhance the chances of individual survival post-release.


Personality Anti-predator behaviour Pre-release screening Reintroduction Burrowing bettong Translocation 



This study was conducted at Arid Recovery, a private conservation organisation supported by BHP Billiton, The University of Adelaide, South Australian Department of Environment and the local community. Our work was supported by the Australian Research Council (ARC Linkage Grant: LP 130100173) and Arid Recovery. We are indebted to D. Williams, C. Lynch, Z. Richardson and R. Pedler for assistance in the field. Ethics approval was obtained from the South Australian Wildlife Ethics Committee, permit no. 1/2014M2. We thank two anonymous reviewers and the editor for astute comments that helped to improve the manuscript.


  1. Atkins R, Blumstein DT, Moseby KE, West R, Hyatt M, Letnic M (2016) Deep evolutionary experience explains mammalian responses to predators. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 70(10):1755–1763Google Scholar
  2. Banks PB, Hume ID, Crowe O (1999) Behavioural, morphological and dietary response of rabbits to predation risk from foxes. Oikos 85:247–256Google Scholar
  3. Bannister HL, Lynch CE, Moseby KE (2016) Predator swamping and supplementary feeding do not improve reintroduction success for a threatened Australian mammal, Bettongia lesueur. Aust Mammal 38(2):177–187Google Scholar
  4. Bates D, Maechler M, Bolker B, Walker S (2014) lme4: Linear mixed-effects models using Eigen and S4. R Package Version 1(7):1–23Google Scholar
  5. Blumstein DT, Daniel JC (2005) The loss of anti-predator behaviour following isolation on islands. Proc R Soc Lond B 272(1573):1663–1668Google Scholar
  6. Blumstein D, Holland BD, Daniel J (2006) Predator discrimination and ‘personality’in captive Vancouver Island marmots (Marmota vancouverensis). Anim Conserv 9(3):274–282Google Scholar
  7. Bonnot N, Verheyden H, Blanchard P, Cote J, Debeffe L, Cargnelutti B, Klein F, Hewison AM, Morellet N (2014) Interindividual variability in habitat use: evidence for a risk management syndrome in roe deer? Behav Ecol 26(1):105–114Google Scholar
  8. Boon AK, Réale D, Boutin S (2008) Personality, habitat use, and their consequences for survival in North American red squirrels Tamiasciurus hudsonicus. Oikos 117(9):1321–1328Google Scholar
  9. Boyer N, Réale D, Marmet J, Pisanu B, Chapuis JL (2010) Personality, space use and tick load in an introduced population of Siberian chipmunks Tamias sibiricus. J Anim Ecol 79(3):538–547PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Bremner-Harrison S, Prodohl P, Elwood RW (2004) Behavioural trait assessment as a release criterion: boldness predicts early death in a reintroduction programme of captive-bred swift fox (Vulpes velox). Anim Conserv 7(3):313–320Google Scholar
  11. Cooper WE, Blumstein DT (2015) Escaping from predators: an integrative view of escape decisions. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  12. Cooper WE, Pyron RA, Garland T (2014) Island tameness: living on islands reduces flight initiation distance. Proc R Soc Lond B 281(1777):20133019Google Scholar
  13. Crainiceanu CM, Ruppert D (2004) Likelihood ratio tests in linear mixed models with one variance component. J R Stat Soc 66(1):165–185Google Scholar
  14. Dingemanse NJ, Both C, Van Noordwijk AJ, Rutten AL, Drent PJ (2003) Natal dispersal and personalities in great tits (Parus major). Proc R Soc Lond 270(1516):741–747Google Scholar
  15. Dingemanse NJ, Kazem AJ, Réale D, Wright J (2010) Behavioural reaction norms: animal personality meets individual plasticity. Trends Ecol Evol 25(2):81–89Google Scholar
  16. Fischer J, Lindenmayer DB (2000) An assessment of the published results of animal relocations. Biol Cons 96(1):1–11Google Scholar
  17. Fucikova E, Drent PJ, Smits N, Van Oers K (2009) Handling stress as a measurement of personality in great tit nestlings (Parus major). Ethology 115(4):366–374Google Scholar
  18. Haage M, Maran T, Bergvall UA, Elmhagen B, Angerbjörn A (2016) The influence of spatiotemporal conditions and personality on survival in reintroductions–evolutionary implications. Oecologia 183(1):45–56PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  19. Kuznetsova A, Brockhoff PB, Christensen RHB (2017) lmerTest package: tests in linear mixed effects models. J Stat Softw 82(13):1–26. Google Scholar
  20. May TM, Page MJ, Fleming PA (2016) Predicting survivors: animal temperament and translocation. Behav Ecol 27(4):969–977Google Scholar
  21. Monclús R, Anderson AM, Blumstein DT (2015) Do yellow-bellied marmots perceive enhanced predation risk when they are farther from safety? An experimental study. Ethology 121(9):831–839Google Scholar
  22. Montiglio P-O, Garant D, Pelletier F, Réale D (2012) Personality differences are related to long-term stress reactivity in a population of wild eastern chipmunks, Tamias striatus. Anim Behav 84(4):1071–1079Google Scholar
  23. Moseby K, Read J, Paton D, Copley P, Hill B, Crisp H (2011) Predation determines the outcome of 10 reintroduction attempts in arid South Australia. Biol Conserv 144(12):2863–2872Google Scholar
  24. Moseby KE, Blumstein DT, Letnic M (2016) Harnessing natural selection to tackle the problem of prey naïveté. Evol Appl 9(2):334–343PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Nakagawa S, Schielzeth H (2010) Repeatability for Gaussian and non-Gaussian data: a practical guide for biologists. Biol Rev 85(4):935–956PubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Petelle MB, McCoy DE, Alejandro V, Martin JG, Blumstein DT (2013) Development of boldness and docility in yellow-bellied marmots. Anim Behav 86(6):1147–1154Google Scholar
  27. Raudenbush SW, Bryk AS (2002) Hierarchical linear models: applications and data analysis methods. Sage, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  28. Réale D, Gallant BY, Leblanc M, Festa-Bianchet M (2000) Consistency of temperament in bighorn ewes and correlates with behaviour and life history. Anim Behav 60(5):589–597PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Réale D, Reader SM, Sol D, McDougall PT, Dingemanse NJ (2007) Integrating animal temperament within ecology and evolution. Biol Rev 82(2):291–318Google Scholar
  30. Réale D, Martin J, Coltman D, Poissant J, Festa-Bianchet M (2009) Male personality, life-history strategies and reproductive success in a promiscuous mammal. J Evol Biol 22(8):1599–1607PubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Richardson K, Ewen J, Brekke P, Doerr L, Parker K, Armstrong D (2016) Behaviour during handling predicts male natal dispersal distances in an establishing reintroduced hihi (Notiomystis cincta) population. Anim Conserv 20(2):135–143Google Scholar
  32. Robley AJ, Short J, Bradley S (2001) Dietary overlap between the burrowing bettong (Bettongia lesueur) and the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) in semi-arid coastal Western Australia. Wildl Res 28(4):341–349Google Scholar
  33. Runyan AM, Blumstein DT (2004) Do individual differences influence flight initiation distance? J Wildl Manag 68(4):1124–1129Google Scholar
  34. Santos CD, Cramer JF, Pârâu LG, Miranda AC, Wikelski M, Dechmann DK (2015) Personality and morphological traits affect pigeon survival from raptor attacks. Sci Rep 5:15490PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  35. Scheipl F, Greven S, Kuechenhoff H (2008) Size and power of tests for a zero random effect variance or polynomial regression in additive and linear mixed models. Comput Stat Data Anal 52(7):3283–3299Google Scholar
  36. Short J, Turner B (1993) The distribution and abundance of the burrowing bettong (Marsupialia: Macropoidea). Wildl Res 20(4):525–533Google Scholar
  37. Short J, Turner B (1999) Ecology of burrowing bettongs, Bettongia lesueur (Marsupialia: Potoroidae), on Dorre and Bernier Islands, Western Australia. Wildl Res 26(5):651–669Google Scholar
  38. Short J, Turner B (2000) Reintroduction of the burrowing bettong Bettongia lesueur (Marsupialia: Potoroidae) to mainland Australia. Biol Cons 96(2):185–196Google Scholar
  39. Smith BR, Blumstein DT (2008) Fitness consequences of personality: a meta-analysis. Behav Ecol 19(2):448–455Google Scholar
  40. Smith BR, Blumstein DT (2012) Structural consistency of behavioural syndromes: does predator training lead to multi-contextual behavioural change? Behaviour 149(2):187–213Google Scholar
  41. Stoffel MA, Nakagawa S, Schielzeth H (2017) rptR: repeatability estimation and variance decomposition by generalized linear mixed-effects models. Methods Ecol Evol 8:1639–1644. Google Scholar
  42. Van Dyck S, Strahan R (2008) The mammals of Australia. New Holland Pub Pty Limited, HollandGoogle Scholar
  43. Watters JV, Meehan CL (2007) Different strokes: can managing behavioral types increase post-release success? Appl Anim Behav Sci 102(3):364–379Google Scholar
  44. Woinarski J, Burbidge A, Harrison P (2014) Action plan for Australian mammals 2012. CSIRO, DicksonGoogle Scholar
  45. Wolf M, Weissing FJ (2012) Animal personalities: consequences for ecology and evolution. Trends Ecol Evol 27(8):452–461Google Scholar
  46. Wolf CM, Griffith B, Reed C, Temple SA (1996) Avian and mammalian translocations: update and reanalysis of 1987 survey data. Conserv Biol 10(4):1142–1154Google Scholar
  47. Woltman H, Feldstain A, MacKay JC, Rocchi M (2012) An introduction to hierarchical linear modeling. Tutor Quant Methods Psychol 8(1):52–69Google Scholar
  48. Richards J, Morris K, Burbidge A (2008) Bettongia lesueur. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T2784A9480530. Accessed 07 Oct 2018

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Ecosystem Science, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Arid Recovery Ltd.Roxby DownsAustralia

Personalised recommendations