Blind shots: non-natural mortality counteracts conservation efforts of a threatened waterbird

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Title: Blind shots: non-natural mortality counteracts conservation efforts of a threatened waterbird
Authors: Pérez-García, Juan M. | Sebastián-González, Esther | Rodríguez-Caro, Roberto C. | Sanz-Aguilar, Ana | Botella, Francisco
Research Group/s: Ecología y Conservación de Poblaciones y Comunidades Animales (ECPCA)
Center, Department or Service: Universidad de Alicante. Departamento de Ecología
Keywords: Captivity breeding | Hunting | Illegal shooting | Marbled teal | Survival | Translocation | GPS tracking
Issue Date: 4-Sep-2023
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons
Citation: Animal Conservation. 2023.
Abstract: Waterbirds are particularly affected by the high hunting pressure they face in many regions, which in some cases is compromising conservation actions for threatened species. The marbled teal Marmaronetta angustirostris is one of the most endangered waterbirds in Europe. In order to restore its population, several conservation actions have recently been undertaken, including a population reinforcement programme in Spain using captive-bred birds. With the aim of assessing the success of the reinforcement programme to establish a long-term self-sustaining population, we identified mortality causes of marbled teal, evaluated the survival of individual birds of the reinforcement programme and estimated the viability of the population under different management scenarios. We used data from wild and captive-bred individuals tracked by GPS since 2018 (n = 42) and from a mark–recapture programme initiated in 2015 (n = 297). We recovered 15 dead birds or transmitters: 20% died of natural causes, 60% of non-natural causes (including all anthropic causes) and 20% of unknown causes. Furthermore, the GPS tags of 24 birds unexpectedly stopped transmitting without any indication of malfunction, and for 66.7% of these disappeared birds, the cessation was suspected to be caused by illegal shooting. Survival during the hunting season was higher for males (31.3%) than for females (12.5%), and for the wild (50%) than for the captive-bred birds (9.4%), probably due to differences in migration patterns to North Africa. Population viability models revealed that maintaining the breeding population at the current mortality rates is only possible with a permanent release programme of captive-bred individuals, and that in order to establish a self-sustaining population, non-natural mortality would have to be reduced by at least 40%. We recommend management measures to reduce marbled teal mortality, such as limiting legal hunting to hours with clear visibility, prosecuting illegal shootings, controlling exotic predators and improving water management to reduce disease outbreaks. Some improvements can be implemented in captive-breeding programmes, such as earlier release times and incorporating anti-predator training.
Sponsor: The transmitters were funded by the Generalitat Valenciana, the Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Biodiversity Foundation. JMPG was supported by a Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities postdoctoral contract IJC-2019-038968 funded by MCIN/AEI/10.13039/501100011033. ESG and ASA received the grants RYC2019-027216-I and RYC-2017-22796 funded by MCIN/AEI/10.13039/501100011033 and by ESF Investing in your future. RCRC was supported by the European Union-Next Generation EU in the Maria Zambrano Program (ZAMBRANO 21-26). The present research was carried out within the framework of the activities of the Spanish Government through the ‘Maria de Maeztu Centre of Excellence’ accreditation to IMEDEA (CSIC-UIB) (CEX2021-001198).
ISSN: 1367-9430 (Print) | 1469-1795 (Online)
DOI: 10.1111/acv.12906
Language: eng
Type: info:eu-repo/semantics/article
Rights: © 2023 The Authors. Animal Conservation published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Zoological Society of London. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Peer Review: si
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Appears in Collections:INV - ECPCA - Artículos de Revistas

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