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Behavioral considerations of headstarting as a conservation strategy for endangered Caribbean rock iguanas.

By A. C. Alberts

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Headstarting animals in captivity prior to reintroduction into the wild has proven to be a valuable strategy in the conservation of critically endangered Caribbean rock iguanas (genus Cyclura). However, a major concern associated with headstarting programs is that some animals reared in a captive environment may lack the behavioral competency to survive and reproduce following release into the wild. Rock iguana headstarting programs are reviewed in terms of assessment and potential enhancement of behavioral competency both pre- and post-release. It may be possible to induce more highly developed antipredator behavior through carefully designed training programs, well-planned enclosures, and site-specific release strategies. Post-release foraging competency can likely be augmented by exposing release candidates to a wider range of natural food types prior to release and timing releases to coincide with periods of seasonal food abundance. The probability of successful settlement and social integration into the wild population may be increased through pre-release exposure to key biotic and abiotic environmental cues, spatial and temporal release strategies, and selection of appropriate release candidates. While empirical results to date suggest that Caribbean rock iguanas are prime candidates for headstart-release programs, avenues for future research are explored that could help enhance restoration success.

Date 2007
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 102
Issue 3/4
Pages 380-391
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Publisher Elsevier
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2006.05.037
Author Address Conservation & Research for Endangered Species, Zoological Society of San Diego, 15600 San Pasqual Valley Road, Escondido, CA 92027,
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal rights
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Biological resources
  5. Conservation
  6. Environment
  7. Escape responses
  8. Feeding behavior
  9. Iguanas
  10. Lizards
  11. peer-reviewed
  12. Reptiles
  13. Wild animals
  1. peer-reviewed