Linking Husbandry and Behavior to Enhance Amphibian Reintroduction Success
Wildlife in captivity has a long history of benefiting global conservation goals. Captive animals can raise awareness and appreciation for the conservation of endangered species. Additionally, captive animals can be used as source populations to reintroduce animals back to the wild or to supplement existing wild populations. The rapid increase in amphibian species threatened with imminent extinction has necessitated the creation of dozens of captive-breeding programs. The focus of this dissertation has integrated topics across the spectrum of animals in captivity and the wild, and the results provide useful recommendations for conservation action. First, I describe how market pressures over a 28-year period are causing meteoric increases in the prices of amphibians sold in the pet trade, indicating a high risk of overexploitation. Pet amphibians may facilitate greater understanding and appreciation of amphibians, but the pet trade must be sustainable. Improving amphibian husbandry will increase the number of captive-bred animals available in the pet trade, and it will allow greater production of threatened species for reintroductions. Secondly, by performing a systematic review of husbandry for 289 amphibian species native to the US, I identified a critical lack in taxon-specific husbandry and developed husbandry research prioritizations. Next, I used a combination of laboratory and field studies to examine domestication processes in amphibians by comparing defensive behaviors in two species of captive-bred and wild poison frog. Captive-bred amphibians had significantly reduced defensive behaviors compared to wild conspecifics, likely resulting from habitation processes related to their husbandry. Finally, I performed three reintroductions of the critically endangered Wyoming Toad (Anaxyrus baxteri) in Wyoming, US. I demonstrated how providing a transitionary period, called a soft-release, to captive-bred toads moving to a novel, wild environment can improve reintroduction success. My work illustrates how improving our understanding of the nexus between captivity and the wild can improve conservation action for endangered species.
Luke, Linhoff Jack, "Linking Husbandry and Behavior to Enhance Amphibian Reintroduction Success" (2018). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI10976742.