Alarm communication for social species’ survival
Communication among animals is critical for survival, particularly when a predator is present. The aim of my research was to investigate social species’ alarm vocalisations and establish ways in which this information could be utilised to benefit endangered populations. I analysed vocalisations and behavioural observations of a previously un-investigated, cooperative passerine, the southern pied babbler (Turdoides bicolor), exposed to aerial and terrestrial predators in the wild. I found that individuality was encoded within call acoustics and predator type was not, suggesting recognising group individuals may be of value across predator contexts. I also found individuals would flee from aerial predators and mob terrestrial predators, suggesting they may have an alternative way of communicating a threat. Understanding this complex survival behaviour provides further insight into the function and meaning of alarm communication systems, which is valuable for solving conservation problems. Translocations are a leading conservation tool, yet predation of released individuals is the leading cause of programme failure. A predominant issue is the naivety of captive individuals to threats. I provide a list of recommendations and actions to guide the reinforcement of alarm communication behaviour in captive individuals, emphasising how preservation of this behaviour may greatly improve the likelihood of release success.