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Summary: The rehabilitation and release of wildlife, with a special focus on macaques



In a perfect world, we would not need to think about spending resources to rescue, rehabilitate, reintroduce, and relocate wild animals. In reality, however, negative interactions between humans and wildlife have been steadily increasing as a function of human-dominated landscape development. Finding best practices to maximize animal welfare and conservation output is more relevant than ever, and requires complex balancing acts. 


In the session presentations and panel discussions, speakers brought us through the work they do and things that must be considered when working with animals to be released into the wild.


...at the end of the day I think we did the best we could for the situation that we were put in.
- Jeremy Phan

One of the biggest and most common challenges presented was limited resources in these rehabilitation and release programs. Notably, funding, workforce, and carrying capacity are some of the main factors that limit the ability to adhere to best practices when releasing animals. These constraints sometimes force project managers to make impossible choices; from hard-release to euthanasia, such was the case at the Lao Conservation Trust for Wildlife as Jeremy Phan shared in his presentation. While some macaque species are known to be good at adapting to new environments and, thus, possibly do not suffer much from hard release; however, the ecological pros and cons of releasing a group of macaques into an environment need to be better documented. This opened up more questions: Should animals not be released or translocated if habitat assessment and post-release monitoring cannot be carried out? Resources like the IUCN Guidelines for Reintroductions and Other Conservation Translocations could help with decision-making when it comes to which aspects are indispensable and which are more flexible. 


Working with the local community is another major challenge when trying to rescue and release wild animals as a strategy to mitigate negative human-wildlife interactions. As local people’s perceptions can make or break a conservation project, it’s imperative that the community is consulted when planning a release. Sian Waters suggests conducting qualitative research or surveys with local communities and including recommendations for releasing primates in different contexts in best practice guidelines.


"Listening is the most pro-conservation behavior you can practice and may foster positivity toward your work.
- Sian Waters

On a similar note, Susan Cheyne expressed the challenge of keeping the IUCN best practices guideline up to date for there are so many different species from even more particular local contexts. She also encouraged reporting on failures and knowledge sharing among groups. The lack of a best practice guideline for the rehabilitation and release of macaques as a taxonomic group was acknowledged and is partly attributable to their large geographical distribution range. 


...learning from the mistakes and sharing what didn’t work is critical…
- Susan Cheyne

Pressure from funders and governments to release animals was also among the frustrations shared by most speakers.  Such pressure contributes to conservation practitioners not following international guidelines. This points to the necessity of effective communication across multiple stakeholders so everyone understands the procedure to rehabilitate and criteria for release, and the consequences of when requirements are not fulfilled. 


Watch  the recording for presentations and discussions of this session on here: 



If you would like to be involved in this discussion email SARRC at sanctuaries@asiaforanimals.com or MACC at macaques@asiaforanimals.com


Speakers

Title of presentation

Turtle release for conservation in Vietnam: experiences and challenges

The Human Dimensions of Primate Translocations

Rehabilitation and Release of Gibbons: Lessons from the Past 25 Years and Next Steps

Chiara Parolin Free The Bear

Soft-release of a troop of Macaca leonina in Northern Laos

Freeing Dancing Monkeys, Rescue, Rehab and Release

Challenges and Solutions: LCTW's Obligatory Release of Macaques


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