Conservation Applications

Many problems in wildlife conservation and management involve humans causing changes to animal populations or their environment. In applied work, an understanding of the dynamics of a social system is a prerequisite to predicting the effect of human activities on, for example, spatial organization, population dynamics, and dispersal. For example, attempts to control the transmission of bovine tuberculosis by killing badgers, a reservoir of the disease, clearly disrupts the society of survivors. The effects of such perturbation on social dynamics may alter the transmission of the disease, plausibly for the worse (Swinton et al. 1997). A similar case may be argued regarding rabies control (Macdonald 1995). Translocation of elephants without regard for the social structure that provides adolescent discipline has led to problem animals in some African parks (McKnight 1995). Tuyttens and Macdonald (in press) review some consequences of behavioral disruption for wildlife management. Population control has been shown to affect the rate and pattern of dispersal (Clout and Efford 1984), home range size (Berger and Cunningham 1995), territoriality, mating system (Jouventin and Cornet 1980), and the nature of social interactions (Lott 1991) in a variety of species.

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