Most populations of giraffes have declined in recent decades, leading to the recent IUCN decision to upgrade the species to Vulnerable status, and some subspecies to Endangered. Translocations have been used as a conservation tool to re-introduce giraffes to previously occupied areas or establish new populations, but guidelines for founding populations are lacking. To provide general guidelines for translocation projects regarding feasibility, we simulated various scenarios of translocated giraffe populations to identify viable age and sex distributions of founding populations using population viability analysis (PVA) implemented in Vortex software. We explored the parameter space for demography and the genetic load, examining how variation in founding numbers and sex ratios affected 100 yr probability of population extinction and genetic diversity. We found that even very small numbers of founders (N ≤ 10 females) can appear to be successful in the first decades due to transient positive population growth, but with moderate population growth rate and moderate genetic load, long-term population viability (probability of extinction <0.01) was only achieved with ≥30 females and ≥3 males released. To maintain >95% genetic diversity of the source population in an isolated population, 50 females and 5 males are recommended to compose the founding population. Sensitivity analyses revealed first-year survival and reproductive rate were the simulation parameters with the greatest proportional influence on probability of extinction and genetic diversity. These simulations highlight important considerations for translocation success and data gaps including true genetic load in wild giraffe populations.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Nature and Landscape Conservation