Decision making in guidance of reintroduction efforts is made challenging by the substantial scientific uncertainty typically involved. However, a less recognized challenge is that the management objectives are often numerous and complex. Decision makers managing reintroduction efforts are often concerned with more than just how to maximize the probability of reintroduction success from a population perspective. Decision makers are also weighing other concerns such as budget limitations, public support and/or opposition, impacts on the ecosystem, and the need to consider not just a single reintroduction effort, but conservation of the entire species. Multiple objective decision analysis is a powerful tool for formal analysis of such complex decisions. We demonstrate the use of multiple objective decision analysis in the case of the Florida non-migratory whooping crane reintroduction effort. In this case, the State of Florida was considering whether to resume releases of captive-reared crane chicks into the non-migratory whooping crane population in that state. Management objectives under consideration included maximizing the probability of successful population establishment, minimizing costs, maximizing public relations benefits, maximizing the number of birds available for alternative reintroduction efforts, and maximizing learning about the demographic patterns of reintroduced whooping cranes. The State of Florida engaged in a collaborative process with their management partners, first, to evaluate and characterize important uncertainties about system behavior, and next, to formally evaluate the tradeoffs between objectives using the Simple Multi-Attribute Rating Technique (SMART). The recommendation resulting from this process, to continue releases of cranes at a moderate intensity, was adopted by the State of Florida in late 2008. Although continued releases did not receive support from the International Whooping Crane Recovery Team, this approach does provide a template for the formal, transparent consideration of multiple, potentially competing, objectives in reintroduction decision making.
Additional publication details
A matter of tradeoffs: reintroduction as a multiple objective decision
Journal of Wildlife Management
Georgia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit