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Experimental translocation trials of the Mallee Emu-Wren inform future translocation protocols

Lab member Will Mitchell played a lead role in the experimental trial reintroduction of the endangered mallee emu-wren in Ngarkat Conservation Park, South Australia with our agency partners and this work has now been published in Pacific Conservation Biology. Although these trials did not produce the hoped for outcome of establishing a new population in Ngarkat Conservation Park, they did provide valuable insight into both future mallee emu-wren translocations, as well as broader conservation translocation protocols in settings where there might be limited information.

Despite being a widely applied tool, conservation translocation have a high failure rate. Thus, it is important to implement translocations to both maximize positive outcomes but also to learn from failures. In this case, Will investigated whether timing of release or composition of release groups would influence indices of translocation success.

Will and the team found that Spring should be prioritized for mallee emu-wren translocation in the future, as birds released in autumn dispersed further. Will also demonstrated that while it is best to maintain intact social groups where possible as a precautionary measure, sociality had no detectable influence on dispersal or survival of translocated mallee emu-wrens. As additional effort and resources are required to both capture and maintain intact social groups during translocations, this knowledge provides valuable opportunities to streamline future translocations. Additionally, Will found some impact of harvesting of emu-wrens on the source population. This emphasizes the need to obtain population demographic information from source sites to ensure that conservation translocations are sustainable.

Collectively, these insights directly inform a larger scale “phase two” of this project where the team seek to successfully re-establish a population of mallee emu-wrens in South Australia.

Photo by Will Mitchell.

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