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The importance of early life experience and animal cultures in reintroductions
- Teitelbaum, Claire S., Converse, Sarah J., Mueller, Thomas
- Conservation letters 2019 v.12 no.1 pp. e12599
- Grus americana, animals, learning, life events, migratory behavior
- Even within a single population, individuals can display striking differences in behavior, with consequences for their survival and fitness. In reintroduced populations, managers often attempt to promote adaptive behaviors by controlling the early life experiences of individuals, but it remains largely unknown whether this early life training has lasting effects on behavior. We investigated the behavior of reintroduced whooping cranes (Grus americana) trained to migrate using two different methods to see whether their migration behavior remained different or converged over time. We found that the behavior of the two groups converged relatively rapidly, indicating that early life training may not produce lasting effects, especially in species that display lifelong learning and behavioral adaptation. In some cases, managers may consider continual behavioral interventions after release if desired behaviors are not present. Understanding the roles early life experience and animal cultures play in determining behavior is crucial for successful reintroduction programs.