Animal behaviour and its role in carnivore conservation: examples of seven deadly threats
© 2016 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour Habitat loss, climate change, hunting perturbation, disease, invasive species, guild structure disruption and conflict are seven widespread threats to wildlife conservation, with the Carnivora standing at the apex of risk. Fundamental to all of these is the ability of organisms and ecosystems to adapt, else succumb, and it is the extent to which their behaviour is flexible and adaptable that may stand between viability and extinction. Knowledge gained through undertaking original research on aspects of fundamental biology and behaviour assists practitioners and policy makers in the management of conservation problems. Selecting examples of these seven threats from our projects at the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), I identify the conservation issue concerned, and then explore the behavioural component and its relevance to mitigating that conservation issue. Social systems, demography, life histories, habitat selection, foraging and patch choice, the Allee effect, conspecific attraction, movement, ranging and dispersal are pervasive behavioural elements common across various conservation issues that determine why some populations decline and what can be done to remedy the situation. However, the overarching principle remains the same: effective action requires an understanding of the behaviour of the species concerned. Conservation is most exciting and most difficult at two ends of a continuum: the earthiness of animal lives, human livelihoods and practical action, and the erudition of big ideas, from individual behaviours to the consequences for populations and, ultimately, geopolitical decisions about how humans are to live alongside nature with the wellbeing of both as goals.