Population dynamics of a reintroduced Asiatic wild ass (Equus hemionus) herd Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Reintroduction is the release of animals into an area where they were extirpated or have significantly declined. Little is known about the factors that determine the success or failure of ungulate reintroduction. We studied the dynamics of a reintroduced Asiatic wild ass (Equus hemionus) population for 10 yr (1983-1993) following the first successful release into the wild. A total of 14 adult females and 14 adult males were released into a nature reserve in the Negev Desert of southern Israel. Over this 10-yr span the female population has grown to only 16 adults. Reproductive success of reintroduced females was low in the first 5 yr following release (0.0-0.8 foals . female(-1). yr(-1)), but increased to 0.5-1.0 foals . female(-1). yr(-1) in the last 5 yr. Reproductive success of wild-born females greater than or equal to 3 yr old was higher than that of reintroduced females of similar ages, and ranged from 0.5-1.0 foals . female .(-1)yr(-1). Our study and data from the E. hemionus studbook suggest that young nonprimiparous females produced primarily males, while primiparous and old females produced primarily females. We attribute the low reproductive success following reintroduction to the stress caused by capture, transport, and release procedures; we consider the age-dependent progeny sex ratio within the framework of Trivers and Willard's (1973) maternal allocation hypothesis. We conclude that the slow growth of the female population was due to: (a) low reproductive success of females in the early years following reintroduction, and (b) a male-skewed progeny sex ratio among prime-aged reintroduced females. A simple stochastic Leslie matrix model suggests that high survival and improved reproductive success of reintroduced females at later stages of the study, and the reproductive success of wild-born females, make the population relatively unsusceptible to extinction from random demographic processes. In-depth knowledge of the dynamics of reintroduced populations is vital for the correct assessment of their viability. We offer suggestions for increasing the efficacy of future wild ass reintroductions.

publication date

  • January 1, 1995