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Flight responses of eastern grey kangaroos to benign or harmful human behaviour

Citation

Austin, Caitlin; Ramp, Daniel (2020), Flight responses of eastern grey kangaroos to benign or harmful human behaviour, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.mcvdncjwb

Abstract

Globally, wilderness is being converted for rural and agricultural land use. In countryside landscapes, many habitat structures remain intact, providing suitable habitat for wildlife species that can accurately assess novel risks and develop tolerance to benign disturbances. Associative learning that promotes avoidance and also facilitate desensitisation to benign disturbance is key to persisting in these landscapes. Conversely, learning to distinguish and avoid negative interactions with humans, like hunting, is vital. To determine if eastern grey kangaroos are capable of learning from previous interactions with humans, we tested the flight responses of wild kangaroos which have previously experienced either low or high frequencies of harmful and benign encounters with humans. We found that eastern grey kangaroos rapidly habituated to benign disturbance as there was no significant difference in assessment distance between groups that previously experienced low or high frequencies of disturbance. The threat of harmful disturbances was not as quickly learnt, as groups that experienced low frequencies of harmful disturbance delayed flight longer than those experiencing frequent harm. We found that the influence of environmental and group parameters on a kangaroo’s decision to flee depended on the intent and frequency of previous interactions with humans. Our study indicates that kangaroos are learning from previous encounters with humans, correctly assessing novel risks which may be a contributing to their persistence in countryside landscapes.