Fox baiting is one of the main management actions to conserve malleefowl – an endemic threatened Australian ground-dwelling, mound-building bird. By analysing data from 20 years across Australia I found that current intensities of fox baiting were not effective at improving malleefowl population growth rates. The return on investment of fox baiting for malleefowl conservation was low.

In this paper I demonstrated the importance of evaluating the actual outcomes of conservation actions (i.e. malleefowl populations) rather than the outputs (i.e. fox numbers declining). We can’t assume that conservation actions will have the expected outcomes, as many other factors might be at play. Importantly, this analysis was only possible due to long term monitoring efforts (mostly by volunteers) across the country, emphasising the value of these programs. Even so, this work has lead to a national adaptive management framework for malleefowl, to test in more detail which factors influence the effectiveness of fox baiting.

Fig 1. Stages of the management process, for (a) a general case study, and (b) fox control for malleefowl conservation. The relationships between each step should be quantified in order to calculate return on investment relationships.

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Walsh JC, Wilson KA, Benshemesh J, Possingham HP. 2012. Unexpected outcomes of invasive predator control: The importance of evaluating conservation management actions. Animal Conservation 15:319–328.

Walsh JC, Wilson KA, Benshemesh J, Possingham HP. 2012. Integrating research, monitoring and management into an adaptive management framework to achieve effective conservation outcomes. Animal Conservation 15:334–336 (open access).