Abstract

The aim of any reintroduction program is to create a viable population that is self-sustaining in the long term. Thus, in the short term, it is important to evaluate the acclimation of reintroduced individuals in order to assess the potential success of the project. In this study, we radio-tracked 30 European pond turtles (Emys orbicularis) reintroduced in the Estagnol Nature Reserve (southern France) in 2008 and 2009. We analyzed each individual's dispersal over the site, its home range, and its pattern of displacement for 2 yrs after its release. About 80% of the released animals were still detected on the site 8 mo after the release operation. Home-range size was highly variable among individuals but was typical of what is known for the species. Home ranges were, however, larger in the first year after release than in the following year, probably because individuals explored the site immediately after release. The released individuals exhibited a typical displacement pattern over the first year, with a larger displacement during spring and summer that was earlier for males (April–May) than for females (June–September). All of these results strongly indicate the success of the acclimation phase of the reintroduction operation. To evaluate the success of reintroduction programs of long-lived species, we recommend, in addition to a long-term demographic study, a fine-scale study of space-use modalities, which allows the assessment of the acclimation phase of the individuals at the new site in the short term. In this way, a rapid reevaluation of the project can be made if failure at this stage is identified, allowing appropriate management actions to be taken at the site.

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