Conservation and Behaviour


Conservation behaviour is an area of conservation biology particularly suited to investigate problems of species endangerment associated with managing animals in fragmented habitats and isolated parks. It employs a theoretical framework that examines the mechanisms, development, function and phylogeny of behavioural variation in order to develop practical tools for preventing extinction. This framework can be used to attract animals to suitable habitat, restore migratory movements, identify individual reproductive strategies affecting conservation and focus protection on species most susceptible to extinction. The future success of conservation behaviour requires that behaviourists link individual variation in behaviour to processes that determine population viability.

Key concepts

  • Animal conservation will require active management.

  • Behavioural problems must be examined from four perspectives (mechanisms, ontogeny, adaptive function, phylogeny) simultaneously.

  • Behavioural strategies of individual animals change as habitat and populations are altered, and those changes could harm population viability.

  • Animal behaviourists must participate in conservation planning to protect the future of biodiversity.

Keywords: conservation; extinction; wildlife management; ethology

Figure 1.

More migratory populations and species of hoofed mammals are endangered by anthropogenic obstacles to animal migration such as fences, roads and reservoirs, than by overhunting or agricultural development of natural areas. Data from Bolger et al. ().

Figure 2.

Sustainable ecotourism provides financial incentives to protect natural areas. Conservation behaviour studies are needed to determine if island species, such as this Galapagos penguin, habituate more easily to human disturbance because they have evolved without terrestrial predators. Photo courtesy of Clifford Ochs.



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Further Reading

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Buchholz, Richard, Yamnik, Patrick, Pulaski, Cassan N, and Campbell, Chelsea A(Dec 2008) Conservation and Behaviour. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0021217]