Translocation for conservation: Neonates are less suitable than adults

Tara L. Daniell, Ryan Baring, Mark N. Hutchinson, Phil Ainsley, Michael G. Gardner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Animal behaviour can affect the outcome of conservation translocations. It is important to understand the behaviour of the species being considered for translocation and how its behaviour varies over life stages. There may be uncertainty about what life stages are best as founders for release back into wild populations. A technique called head-starting whereby juvenile life stages are raised in captivity and then released is one potential pre-release strategy. However, juveniles of many species have a dispersive role in the life cycle, potentially raising difficulties for establishing new populations due to dispersal from the intended habitat following release. For this study, we compared aspects of the behaviour of captive adult and neonate pygmy bluetongue lizards (Tiliqua adelaidensis) – an endangered species for which translocation is likely to be an important management strategy – to determine if neonate behavioural characteristics are appropriate for their translocation. We filmed adult and neonate pygmy bluetongue lizards and compared their behaviour. We also filmed adults over an activity season to compare seasonal behaviour. Behavioural parameters measured included basking time, burrow exits, burrows occupied and walking the perimeter wall. Neonates basked significantly more than adults in summer and autumn. Neonates are likely to be basking more than adults because they are in a stage of rapid growth and need to gain body mass before the winter inactivity period. Neonates exited burrows more often than adults and used a greater number of burrows. These results indicate neonate lizards are actively exploring their habitat. Neonates are unlikely to be as suitable for translocation as they are actively moving about and more likely to be predated upon or disperse from the translocation site. Our finding can be applied to other species that have active juvenile life stages and are at particular risk of predation due to their small size.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)468-477
Number of pages10
JournalAustral Ecology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020


  • age-specific behaviour
  • conservation
  • lizard
  • neonate
  • translocations


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