As the world’s biodiversity faces the incessant threats of habitat loss, invasive species and climate change, there is an increasing need to consider more direct conservation interventions. Humans have moved organisms between sites for their own purposes for millennia, and this has yielded benefits for human kind, but in some cases has led to disastrous impacts. In response to this complex aspect of conservation management, the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Reintroduction Specialist Group (RSG) and Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG) have revised and published the IUCN ‘Guidelines for Reintroductions and Other Conservation Translocations’.
Translocation is the human-mediated movement of living organisms from one area, with release in another. The updated Guidelines provide detailed action plans for the full spectrum of translocations, including re-introduction, reinforcement, and conservation introduction. The biological, social, and political ramifications are discussed and provide the starting point for risk assessment and feasibility studies.
Over the last 20 years there has been a significant increase in animal and plant re-introductions, and improved understanding of the scientific principles and practical issues associated with successful translocations. The RSG originally developed the IUCN Guidelines for Reintroduction in 1998, after the initial IUCN Position Statement on the Translocation of Living Organisms in 1987. These Guidelines were based on pioneering reintroductions such as the Arabian Oryx (Oryx leucoryx) in Oman, the Golden Lion Tamarin (Leontopithecus rosalia) in Brazil, and the Red Wolf (Canis rufus) in the USA.
The updated Guidelines are a response to the multiple challenges facing species, and the resultant need to use conservation translocations to establish new populations; where the species used to occur; or to boost existing small populations; or to restore key ecological functions. Drawing on experience with invasive species, the new Guidelines also draw attention to the uncertainties and risks implicit in assisted colonisation – the action of deliberately moving plants or animals to areas outside their previous range, where conditions are predicted to be more suitable. To date, there are almost no examples of such assisted colonisation, although it has become a contentious issue in contemporary conservation.
Any conservation translocation must be justified, with development of clear objectives, identification and assessment of risks, and with measures of performance. These Guidelines are an essential tool for any proposed conservation translocation; they are based on principle rather than example, and offer a platform to make an informed decision about this increasingly common conservation intervention.
The Guidelines can be downloaded here.
For more information please contact:
Dr Frédéric Launay
Chair, IUCN SSC Reintroduction Specialist Group