Rewilding the tropics, and other conservation translocations strategies in the tropical Asia-Pacific region

Julien Louys, Richard T. Corlett, Gilbert Price, Stuart Hawkins, Philip Piper

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Alarm over the prospects for survival of species in a rapidly changing world has encouraged discussion of translocation conservation strategies that move beyond the focus of 'at-risk' species. These approaches consider larger spatial and temporal scales than customary, with the aim of recreating functioning ecosystems through a combination of large-scale ecological restoration and species introductions. The term 'rewilding' has come to apply to this large-scale ecosystem restoration program. While reintroductions of species within their historical ranges have become standard conservation tools, introductions within known paleontological ranges-but outside historical ranges-are more controversial, as is the use of taxon substitutions for extinct species. Here, we consider possible conservation translocations for nine large-bodied taxa in tropical Asia-Pacific. We consider the entire spectrum of conservation translocation strategies as defined by the IUCN in addition to rewilding. The taxa considered are spread across diverse taxonomic and ecological spectra and all are listed as 'endangered' or 'critically endangered' by the IUCN in our region of study. They all have a written and fossil record that is sufficient to assess past changes in range, as well as ecological and environmental preferences, and the reasons for their decline, and they have all suffered massive range restrictions since the late Pleistocene. General principles, problems, and benefits of translocation strategies are reviewed as case studies. These allowed us to develop a conservation translocation matrix, with taxa scored for risk, benefit, and feasibility. Comparisons between taxa across this matrix indicated that orangutans, tapirs, Tasmanian devils, and perhaps tortoises are the most viable taxa for translocations. However, overall the case studies revealed a need for more data and research for all taxa, and their ecological and environmental needs. Rewilding the Asian-Pacific tropics remains a controversial conservation strategy, and would be difficult in what is largely a highly fragmented area geographically.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)4380-4398
    JournalEcology and Evolution
    Issue number22
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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