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IUCN/SSC Guidelines For Re-Introductions

Prepared by the SSC Re-introduction Specialist Group *
Approved by the 41st Meeting of the IUCN Council, Gland Switzerland, May 1995

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These policy guidelines have been drafted by the Re-introduction Specialist Group of the IUCN's Species Survival Commission (1), in response to the increasing occurrence of reintroduction projects worldwide, and consequently, to the growing need for specific policy guidelines to help ensure that the reintroductions achieve their intended conservation benefit, and do not cause advers side-effects of greater impact. Although IUCN developed a Position Statement on the Translocation of Living Organisms in 1987, more detailed guidelines were felt to be essential in providing more comprehensive coverage of the various factors involved in reintroduction exercises.

These guidelines are intended to act as a guide for procedures useful to reintroduction programmes and do not represent an inflexible code of conduct. Many of the points are more relevant to reintroductions using captive-bred individuals than to translocations of wild species. Others are especially relevant to globally endangered species with limited numbers of founders. Each reintroduction proposal should be rigorously reviewed on its individual merits. It should be noted that reintroduction is always a very lengthy, complex and expensive process.

Re-introductions or translocations of species for short-term, sporting or commercial purposes - where there is no intention to establish a viable population - are a different issue and beyond the scope of these guidelines. These include fishing and hunting activities.

This document has been written to encompass the full range of plant and animal taxa and is therefore general. It will be regularly revised. Handbooks for reintroducing individual groups of animals and plants will be developed in future.



The increasing number of re-introductions and translocations led to the establishment of the IUCN/SSCSpecies Survival Commission's Re-introduction Specialist Group. A priority of the Group has been toupdate IUCN's 1987 Position Statement on the Translocation of Living Organisms, in consultation withIUCN's other commissions.

It is important that the Guidelines are implemented in the context of IUCN's broader policies pertainingto biodiversity conservation and sustainable management of natural resources. The philosophy forenvironmental conservation and management of IUCN and other conservation bodies is stated in keydocuments such as "Caring for the Earth" and "Global Biodiversity Strategy" which cover the broadthemes of the need for approaches with community involvement and participation in sustainablenatural resource conservation, an overall enhanced quality of human life and the need to conserveand, where necessary, restore ecosystems. With regards to the latter, the re-introduction of aspecies is one specific instance of restoration where, in general, only this species is missing. Fullrestoration of an array of plant and animal species has rarely been tried to date.

Restoration of single species of plants and animals is becoming more frequent around the world.Some succeed, many fail. As this form of ecological management is increasingly common, it is apriority for the Species Survival Commission's Re-introduction Specialist Group to develop guidelinesso that re-introductions are both justifiable and likely to succeed, and that the conservation world canlearn from each initiative, whether successful or not. It is hoped that these Guidelines, based onextensive review of case - histories and wide consultation across a range of disciplines willintroduce more rigour into the concepts, design, feasibility and implementation of re-introductionsdespite the wide diversity of species and conditions involved.

Thus the priority has been to develop guidelines that are of direct, practical assistance to thoseplanning, approving or carrying out re-introductions. The primary audience of these guidelines is,therefore, the practitioners (usually managers or scientists), rather than decision makers ingovernments. Guidelines directed towards the latter group would inevitably have to go into greaterdepth on legal and policy issues.


"Re-introduction": an attempt to establish a species(2) in an area which was once part of itshistorical range, but from which it has been extirpated or become extinct (3) ("Re-establishment" is asynonym, but implies that the re-introduction has been successful).

"Translocation": deliberate and mediated movement of wild individuals or populations from one partof their range to another.

"Re-inforcement/Supplementation": addition of individuals to an existing population ofconspecifics.

"Conservation/Benign Introductions": an attempt to establish a species, for the purpose ofconservation, outside its recorded distribution but within an appropriate habitat and eco-geographicalarea. This is a feasible conservation tool only when there is no remaining area left within a species'historic range.


a. Aims:

The principle aim of any re-introduction should be to establish a viable, free-ranging population in thewild, of a species, subspecies or race, which has become globally or locally extinct, or extirpated, inthe wild. It should be re-introduced within the species' former natural habitat and range and shouldrequire minimal long-term management.

b. Objectives:

The objectives of a re-introduction may include: to enhance the long-term survival of a species; tore-establish a keystone species (in the ecological or cultural sense) in an ecosystem; to maintainand/or restore natural biodiversity; to provide long-term economic benefits to the local and/or nataionaleconomy; to promote conservation awareness; or a combination of these.


A re-introduction requires a multidisciplinary approach involving a team of persons drawn from avariety of backgrounds. As well as government personnel, they may include persons fromgovernmental natural resource management agencies; non-governmental organisations; fundingbodies; universities; veterinary institutions; zoos (and private animal breeders) and/or botanicgardens, with a full range of suitable expertise. Team leaders should be responsible for coordinationbetween the various bodies and provision should be made for publicity and public education about theproject.



(i) Feasibility study and background research

An assessment should be made of the taxonomic status of individuals to be re-introduced. They should preferably be of the same subspecies or race as those which were extirpated, unless adequate numbers are not available. An investigation of historical information about the loss and fate of individuals from the re-introduction area, as well as molecular genetic studies, should be undertaken in case of doubt as to individuals' taxonomic status. A study of genetic variation within and between populations of this and related taxa can also be helpful. Special care is needed when the population has long been extinct. Detailed studies should be made of the status and biology of wild populations(if they exist) to determine the species' critical needs. For animals, this would include descriptions of habitat preferences, intraspecific variation and adaptations to local ecological conditions, social behaviour, group composition, home range size, shelter and food requirements, foraging and feeding behaviour, predators and diseases. For migratory species, studies should include the potential migratory areas. For plants, it would include biotic and abiotic habitat requirements, dispersal mechanisms, reproductive biology, symbiotic relationships (e.g. with mycorrhizae, pollinators), insect pests and diseases. Overall, a firm knowledge of the natural history of the species in question is crucial to the entire re-introduction scheme. The species, if any, that has filled the void created by the loss of the species concerned, should be determined; an understanding of the effect the re-introduced species will have on the ecosystem is important for ascertaining the success of the re-introduced population. The build-up of the released population should be modelled under various sets of conditions, in order to specify the optimal number and composition of individuals to be released per year and the numbers of years necessary to promote establishment of a viable population. A Population and Habitat Viability Analysis will aid in identifying significant environmental and population variables and assessing their potential interactions, which would guide long-term population management.

(ii) Previous Re-introductions

Thorough research into previous re-introductions of the same or similar species and wide-ranging contacts with persons having relevant expertise should be conducted prior to and while developing re-introduction protocol.

(iii) Choice of release site and type

Site should be within the historic range of the species. For an initial re-inforcement there should be few remnant wild individuals. For a re-introduction, there should be no remnant population to prevent disease spread, social disruption and introduction of alien genes. In some circumstances, a re-introduction or re-inforcement may have to be made into an area which is fenced or otherwise delimited, but it should be within the species' former natural habitat and range. A conservation/ benign introduction should be undertaken only as a last resort when no opportunities for re-introduction into the original site or range exist and only when a significant contribution to the conservation of the species will result. The re-introduction area should have assured, long-term protection (whether formal or otherwise).

(iv) Evaluation of re-introduction site

Availability of suitable habitat: re-introductions should only take place where the habitat and landscape requirements of the species are satisfied, and likely to be sustained for the for-seeable future. The possibility of natural habitat change since extirpation must be considered. Likewise, a change in the legal/ political or cultural environment since species extirpation needs to be ascertained and evaluated as a possible constraint. The area should have sufficient carrying capacity to sustain growth of the re-introduced population and support a viable (self-sustaining) population in the long run. Identification and elimination, or reduction to a sufficient level, of previous causes of decline: could include disease; over-hunting; over-collection; pollution; poisoning; competition with or predation by introduced species; habitat loss; adverse effects of earlier research or management programmes; competition with domestic livestock, which may be seasonal. Where the release site has undergone substantial degradation caused by human activity, a habitat restoration programme should be initiated before the re-introduction is carried out.

(v) Availability of suitable release stock

It is desirable that source animals come from wild populations. If there is a choice of wild populations to supply founder stock for translocation, the source population should ideally be closely related genetically to the original native stock and show similar ecological characteristics (morphology, physiology, behaviour, habitat preference) to the original sub-population. Removal of individuals for re-introduction must not endanger the captive stock population or the wild source population. Stock must be guaranteed available on a regular and predictable basis, meeting specifications of the project protocol. Individuals should only be removed from a wild population after the effects of translocation on the donor population have been assessed, and after it is guaranteed that these effects will not be negative. If captive or artificially propagated stock is to be used, it must be from a population which has been soundly managed both demographically and genetically, according to the principles of contemporary conservation biology. Re-introductions should not be carried out merely because captive stocks exist, nor solely as a means of disposing of surplus stock. Prospective release stock, including stock that is a gift between governments, must be subjected to a thorough veterinary screening process before shipment from original source. Any animals found to be infected or which test positive for non-endemic or contagious pathogens with a potential impact on population levels, must be removed from the consignment, and the uninfected, negative remainder must be placed in strict quarantine for a suitable period before retest. If clear after retesting, the animals may be placed for shipment. Since infection with serious disease can be acquired during shipment, especially if this is intercontinental, great care must be taken to minimize this risk. Stock must meet all health regulations prescribed by the veterinary authorities of the recipient country and adequate provisions must be made for quarantine if necessary.

(vi) Release of captive stock

Most species of mammal and birds rely heavily on individual experience and learning as juveniles for their survival; they should be given the opportunity to acquire the necessary information to enable survival in the wild, through training in their captive environment; a captive bred individual's probability of survival should approximate that of a wild counterpart. Care should be taken to ensure that potentially dangerous captive bred animals (such as large carnivores or primates) are not so confident in the presence of humans that they might be a danger to local inhabitants and/or their livestock.


Re-introductions are generally long-term projects that require the commitment of long-term financial and political support. Socio-economic studies should be made to assess impacts, costs and benefits of the re-introduction programme to local human populations. A thorough assessment of attitudes of local people to the proposed project is necessary to ensure long term protection of the re-introduced population, especially if the cause of species' decline was due to human factors (e.g. over-hunting, over-collection, loss or alteration of habitat). The programme should be fully understood, accepted and supported by local communities. Where the security of the re-introduced population is at risk from human activities, measures should be taken to minimise these in the re-introduction area. If these measures are inadequate, the re-introduction should be abandoned or alternative release areas sought. The policy of the country to re-introductions and to the species concerned should be assessed. This might include checking existing provincial, national and international legislation and regulations, and provision of new measures and required permits as necessary. Re-introduction must take place with the full permission and involvement of all relevant government agencies of the recipient or host country. This is particularly important in re-introductions in border areas, or involving more than one state or when a re-introduced population can expand into other states, provinces or territories. If the species poses potential risk to life or property, these risks should be minimised and adequate provision made for compensation where necessary; where all other solutions fail, removal or destruction of the released individual should be considered. In the case of migratory/mobile species, provisions should be made for crossing of international/state boundaries.


Approval of relevant government agencies and land owners, and coordination with national and international conservation organizations. Construction of a multidisciplinary team with access to expert technical advice for all phases of the programme. Identification of short- and long-term success indicators and prediction of programme duration, in context of agreed aims and objectives. Securing adequate funding for all programme phases. Design of pre- and post- release monitoring programme so that each re-introduction is a carefully designed experiment, with the capability to test methodology with scientifically collected data. Monitoring the health of individuals, as well as the survival, is important; intervention may be necessary if the situation proves unforseeably favourable. Appropriate health and genetic screening of release stock, including stock that is a gift between governments. Health screening of closely related species in the re-introduction area. If release stock is wild-caught, care must be taken to ensure that: a) the stock is free from infectious or contagious pathogens and parasites before shipment and b) the stock will not be exposed to vectors of disease agents which may be present at the release site (and absent at the source site) and to which it may have no acquired immunity. If vaccination prior to release, against local endemic or epidemic diseases of wild stock or domestic livestock at the release site, is deemed appropriate, this must be carried out during the "Preparation Stage" so as to allow sufficient time for the development of the required immunity. Appropriate veterinary or horticultural measures as required to ensure health of released stock throughout the programme. This is to include adequate quarantine arrangements, especially where founder stock travels far or crosses international boundaries to the release site. Development of transport plans for delivery of stock to the country and site of re-introduction, with special emphasis on ways to minimize stress on the individuals during transport. Determination of release strategy (acclimatization of release stock to release area; behavioural training - including hunting and feeding; group composition, number, release patterns and techniques; timing). Establishment of policies on interventions (see below). Development of conservation education for long-term support; professional training of individuals involved in the long-term programme; public relations through the mass media and in local community; involvement where possible of local people in the programme. The welfare of animals for release is of paramount concern through all these stages.


Post release monitoring is required of all (or sample of) individuals. This most vital aspect may be by direct (e.g. tagging, telemetry) or indirect (e.g. spoor, informants) methods as suitable. Demographic, ecological and behavioural studies of released stock must be undertaken. Study of processes of long-term adaptation by individuals and the population. Collection and investigation of mortalities. Interventions (e.g. supplemental feeding; veterinary aid; horticultural aid) when necessary. Decisions for revision, rescheduling, or discontinuation of programme where necessary. Habitat protection or restoration to continue where necessary. Continuing public relations activities, including education and mass media coverage. Evaluation of cost-effectiveness and success of re- introduction techniques. Regular publications in scientific and popular literature.


  1. Guidelines for determining procedures for disposal of species confiscated in trade are beingdeveloped separately by IUCN.
  2. The taxonomic unit referred to throughout the document is species; it may be a lower taxonomic unit(e.g. subspecies or race) as long as it can be unambiguously defined.
  3. A taxon is extinct when there is no reasonable doubt that the last individual has died


The IUCN/SSC Re-introduction Specialist Group (RSG) is a disciplinary group (as opposed to mostSSC Specialist Groups which deal with single taxonomic groups), covering a wide range of plant andanimal species. The RSG has an extensive international network, a re-introduction projects databaseand re-introduction library. The RSG publishes a bi-annual newsletter RE-INTRODUCTION NEWS.

If you are a re-introduction practitioner or interested in re-introductions please contact:Mr. Pritpal S.SooraeSenior Conservation Officer IUCN/SSC Re-introduction Specialist Group (RSG) Environmental Research & Wildlife Development Agency (ERWDA) P.O. Box 45553 Abu Dhabi United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Tel: (D/L) 971-2-693-4650 or general line: 693-4628 Fax: 971-2-681-7361 E-mail:



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