Evidence based decision making for reintroduction success: translocating threatened prey reptiles into an endemic predator-packed system in Mauritius

CASE award with Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (EWEN_KZSL19ARIES)

Evidence based decision making for reintroduction success: translocating threatened prey reptiles into an endemic predator-packed system in Mauritius

CASE award with Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (EWEN_KZSL19ARIES)

Project Description


Dr John Ewen (ZSL Institute of Zoology)

Dr Rachel McCrea (University of Kent)

Dr Nik Cole (Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust)

Dr Richard Young (Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust)

Dr Stefano Canessa (Institute of Zoology/University of Ghent)

Background and skills training

Reintroduction biology assists in providing the science support for improved reintroduction outcomes. Both the frequency of reintroductions and publication of reintroduction science are increasing, yet their integration remains limited. Embedding science within reintroduction decisions faced by practitioners offers a strategic use of evidence to make the best management decisions. The skills required by scientists need to be developed, including group facilitation, elicitation of expert knowledge, quantitative modelling of predicted and observed outcomes of management alternatives, risk analysis and optimisation.

Our project offers a package where all these aspects will be developed to produce a trained professional able to engage with multi-stakeholder groups undertaking species recovery. The student will develop and apply these skills to a lesser night gecko (LNG, Nactus coindemirensis) reintroduction in Mauritius.

Reintroductions of Mauritian reptiles to rebuild island communities have largely been successful, but have relied on translocating species in trophic order from prey to predator. However, bottom-up community reintroductions are not always possible. Round Island supports the last semi-intact natural reptile community, dominated by intraguild predators. To restore Round Island’s reptile community requires reintroducing threatened reptile prey species, such as the LNG. This project will work with a team including Mauritius government, NGO (Mauritian Wildlife Foundation), UK based partners (Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust) and ARIES DTP hosts (Institute of Zoology and University of Kent) to plan and test a range of alternative reintroduction approaches to establish LNG on Round Island. Methods developed for LNG reintroduction will be globally relevant as practitioners grapple with how to establish prey species where predators remain.


1. Global review of reptile reintroductions with a focus on releases of prey species into areas where predators remain.
2. Group based and facilitated development of the reintroduction problem.
3. Quantitative population modelling using a mix of ongoing monitoring data and expert elicited judgements across various translocation strategies.
4. A LNG translocation to Round Island that will test alternative release strategies.

Person specification

We seek a people person, passionate about wildlife conservation, with an interest in reptiles and a strong quantitative background in demographic modelling. The candidate should enjoy periods of fieldwork on a remote tropical island with basic communal living arrangements.

The successful candidate will be registered for a PhD in the University of Kent’s School of Mathematics, Statistics, and Actuarial Science.

This short video introduces the studentship project:


  • Taylor, G., Canessa, S., Clarke, R.H., Ingwersen, D., Armstrong, D.P., Seddon, P.J. & Ewen, J.G. (2017) Is reintroduction biology and effective applied science? Trends in Ecology and Evolution 11: 873-880
  • Cole, N.C., Mootoocurpen, R., Goder, M., Bachraz, V., Tatayah, V. & Jones, C.G. (2018) Reintroduction of the Telfair’s skink to Gunner’s Quoin, Mauritius. In: Global Reintroduction Perspectives: 2018 (Soorae, P.S. Editor). IUCN.
  • Jones, C.G., Cole, N., Canessa, S., Chauvenet, A., Fogell, D.J. & Ewen, J.G. (2018) Conserving Island Species: Journey to Recovery. In: Species Conservation: Lessons from Islands (Copsey, J.A., Black, S.A., Groombridge, J.J. & Jones, C.G. Eds). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
  • Ewen, J.G., Soorae, P.S. & Canessa, S. (2014) Reintroduction objectives, decisions and outcomes: global perspectives from the herpetofauna. Animal Conservation 17(S1): 74-81.
  • Canessa, S., Hunter, D., McFadden, M., Marantelli, G. & McCarthy, M.A. (2014) Optimal release strategies for cost-effective reintroductions. Journal of Applied Ecology 51: 1107-1115.

Open for applications

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