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Habitat-dependent changes in vigilance behaviour of Red-crowned Crane influenced by wildlife tourism

Li, D and Liu, Y and Sun, X and Lloyd, H and Zhu, S and Zhang, S and Wan, D and Zhang, Z (2017) Habitat-dependent changes in vigilance behaviour of Red-crowned Crane influenced by wildlife tourism. Scientific Reports, 7. ISSN 2045-2322

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Abstract

The Endangered Red-crowned Crane (Grus japonensis) is one of the most culturally iconic and sought-after species by wildlife tourists. Here we investigate how the presence of tourists influence the vigilance behaviour of cranes foraging in Suaeda salsa salt marshes and S. salsa/Phragmites australis mosaic habitat in the Yellow River Delta, China. We found that both the frequency and duration of crane vigilance significantly increased in the presence of wildlife tourists. Increased frequency in crane vigilance only occurred in the much taller S. salsa/P. australis mosaic vegetation whereas the duration of vigilance showed no significant difference between the two habitats. Crane vigilance declined with increasing distance from wildlife tourists in the two habitats, with a minimum distance of disturbance triggering a high degree of vigilance by cranes identified at 300 m. The presence of wildlife tourists may represent a form of disturbance to foraging cranes but is habitat dependent. Taller P. australis vegetation serves primarily as a visual obstruction for cranes, causing them to increase the frequency of vigilance behaviour. Our findings have important implications for the conservation of the migratory red-crowned crane population that winters in the Yellow River Delta and can help inform visitor management.

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