Sharing landscapes with humans is an increasingly fraught challenge for wildlife acrossthe globe. While some species benefit from humans by exploiting novel opportunities (e.g., provisionof resources or removal of competitors or predators), many wildlife experience harmful effects, eitherdirectly through persecution or indirectly through loss of habitat. Consequently, some species havebeen shown to be attracted to human presence while others avoid us. For any given populationof a single species, though, the question of whether they can recognise and change their responseto human presence depending on the type of human actions (i.e., either positive or negative) hasreceived little attention to date. In this study, we chose to examine the behavioural plasticity withina single population of eastern grey kangaroos (Macropus giganteus) to both positive and negativehuman activity. Within a relatively small and contiguous landscape, we identified areas wherekangaroos experience a combination of either low and high frequencies of benign and harmfulhuman disturbances. From six sampling sessions over five months, we found that density and groupsizes were higher where humans acted benignly towards them, and that these groups had higherrepresentations of sub-adults and juveniles than where humans had harmful intentions. Importantly,we found that the vital antipredator strategy of increasing group size with distance from cover wasnot detectable at sites with low and high levels of harm. Our findings suggest that these kangaroosare recognising and adjusting their behavioural response to humans at fine spatial scales, a plasticitytrait that may be key to the survival of these species in human dominated landscapes.
Austin, CM & Ramp, D 2019, 'Flight responses of eastern gray kangaroos to benign or harmful human behavior', Ecology and Evolution, vol. 9, no. 24, pp. 13824-13834.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Austin, C, Tuft, K, Ramp, D, Cremona, T & Webb, JK 2017, 'Bait preference for remote camera trap studies of the endangered northern quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus)', Australian Mammalogy, vol. 39, no. 1, pp. 72-77.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Estimating population size is crucial for managing populations of threatened species. In the Top End of northern Australia, populations of northern quolls (Dasyurus hallucatus), already affected by livestock grazing, inappropriate burning regimes and predation, have collapsed following the spread of the toxic cane toad (Rhinella marina). Cane toads are currently invading the Kimberley, where they pose a threat to quoll populations. To manage these populations, we need reliable methods for detecting and estimating quoll abundance. We deployed camera traps with lures containing tuna, peanut butter or no bait and found that baited cameras performed better than the unbaited control. Cameras with a tuna lure detected more individuals than cameras baited with peanut butter or no bait. Cameras with a tuna lure yielded more photographs per quoll than those baited with peanut butter or no bait. We identified individual quolls from unique spot patterns and found multiple photographs improved the accuracy of identification. We also found that population estimates for the sample area derived from camera trapping were consistent with those from live trapping using mark–recapture techniques.