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Why we’re “interviewing” captive birds to find the best to release into the wild


Several breeded Bali myna or Bali starling (Leucopsar rothschildi) seen on the ground after being released at conservation site in Tabanan, Bali, Indonesia .

Enlarge / The Bali myna is an endangered and protected bird species bred by several conservation societies to preserve its population in the wild. (credit: Johannes P. Christo/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Not all animals are the same. Even within a species, some are bolder and better at solving problems than others. We have found this to be true in the case of the critically endangered Bali myna, a rare bird found only on the island of Bali in Indonesia.

Fewer than 50 adult Bali mynas remain in their native dry forest and savanna on the island. Conservationists are trying, with mixed results, to reintroduce more birds to boost the wild population.

Understanding how each animal perceives, processes, stores, and acts upon information (what scientists describe as “cognition”) could determine how successful these efforts are. In fact, the future of many threatened species could depend upon it.

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