Empirical data on behavior, such as space-use patterns, are important to the success of animal reintroductions. We studied space-use patterns in a growing population of Asiatic wild ass (Equus hemionus) reintroduced into the Ramon erosion cirque in the Negev desert, Israel Between 1988 and 1995 we used direct observation to determine the location and association of males and females. All adult females and dominant males were individually recognized. Home ranges of dominant males overlapped little, suggesting that in this population males are territorial After the first release of males and females into the wild, only one territory was established, and it covered most of the 20,000 ha of the cirque. After 6 years the number of male territories increased as the number of males in the population increased, and average territory size decreased. Male territories were near permanent and ephemeral water sources, but the water sources were at the peripheries of the territories and were not centers of activity. When there was only one territorial male, female home ranges were almost entirely within the territory. As male territory size decreased, so did the spatial association of females with a single male. During the breeding season, males spent more time in close association with female groups, adopting what may temporarily appear to be a harem breeding strategy. Although demographic and environmental factors pose a greater threat to small populations, our data support the hypothesis that in small, reintroduced populations of territorial, polygynous species, effective population size (Ne) may be dangerously small. Our data suggest that this situation may last for several years until new males are recruited into the population. Thereafter, rapid male turnover and female use of several male territories may ameliorate this problem. We found no relationship between male turnover rate and female reproductive success. The establishment of more male territories is key to increasing Ne and should be the basis for planning reserves for territorial, polygynous species.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Nature and Landscape Conservation