Behavioral changes, stress, and survival following reintroduction of Persian fallow deer from two breeding facilities.

Conservation biology : the journal of the Society for Conservation Biology

PubMedID: 19210305

Zidon R, Saltz D, Shore LS, Motro U. Behavioral changes, stress, and survival following reintroduction of Persian fallow deer from two breeding facilities. Conserv Biol. 2009;23(4):1026-35.
Reintroductions often rely on captive-raised, naïve animals that have not been exposed to the various threats present in natural environments. Wild animals entering new areas are timid and invest much time and effort in antipredator behavior. On the other hand, captive animals reared in predator-free conditions and in close proximity to humans may initially lack this tendency, but can reacquire some antipredator behavior over time. We monitored the changes in antipredator-related behaviors of 16 radio-collared Persian fallow deer (Dama mesopotamica) reintroduced to the Soreq Valley in Israel from 2 breeding facilities: one heavily visited by the public (The Biblical Zoo of Jerusalem, Israel) and the other with reduced human presence (Hai-Bar Carmel, Israel). We monitored each individual for up to 200 days after release, focusing on flush and flight distance, flight mode (running or walking), and use of cover. In addition, we compared fecal corticosterone (a stress-related hormone) from samples collected from known animals in the wild to samples collected in the breeding facilities. Reintroduced individuals from both origins exhibit increased flush distance over time; flush and flight distances were larger in individuals from Hai-Bar; use of cover increased with time, but was greater in Hai-Bar Carmel animals; corticosterone levels were significantly higher in fecal samples from reintroduced animals than in samples from captive animals; and Hai-Bar Carmel animals had an 80% survival rate over the 200 days, whereas no animals from the Biblical Zoo of Jerusalem survived. Reintroduced Persian fallow deer reacquired antipredator behaviors after the release, but the process was slow (months) and differences between conditions at the breeding facilities that were seemingly benign (e.g., number of visitors and other human related activities) influenced this process and consequently affected the success of the reintroduction. Captive breeding facilities for the purpose of reintroduction should minimize anthropogenic disturbances.