Les hommes ont oublié cette vérité. Mais tu ne dois pas l'oublier, dit le renard. Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé.
Le Petit Prince, chap. 21

Monday, 9 January 2017

Impacts of introduced mammalian predators on New Zealand’s alpine fauna

O’Donnell, C. F., Weston, K. A., & Monks, J. M. (2017). Impacts of introduced mammalian predators on New Zealand’s alpine fauna. New Zealand Journal of Ecology, 41(1), 01-22.

Alpine zones are threatened globally by invasive species, hunting, and habitat loss caused by fire, anthropogenic development and climate change. These global threats are pertinent in New Zealand, with the least understood pressure being the potential impacts of introduced mammalian predators, the focus of this review. In New Zealand, alpine zones include an extensive suite of cold climate ecosystems covering c. 11% of the land mass. They support rich communities of indigenous invertebrates, lizards, fish, and birds. Many taxa are obligate alpine dwellers, though there is uncertainty about the extent to which distributions of some species are relicts of wider historical ranges. The impacts of introduced mammalian predators are well described in many New Zealand ecosystems, though little is known about the impacts of these predators on alpine fauna. Here we review the importance of alpine habitats for indigenous fauna and the impacts of introduced mammalian predators; and develop a conceptual model explaining threat interactions. Most evidence for predation is anecdotal or comes from studies of species with wider ranges and at lower altitudes. Nevertheless, at least ten introduced predator species have been confirmed as frequent predators of native alpine species, particularly among birds and invertebrates. In the case of the endangered takahe (Porphyrio hochstetteri) and rock wren (Xenicus gilviventris), stoats (Mustela erminea) are primary predators, which are likely to be impacting significantly on population viability. We also document records of mammalian predation on alpine lizards and freshwater fish. While the precise impacts on the long-term viability of threatened species have not been evaluated, anecdotal evidence suggests that predation by mammals is a serious threat, warranting predator control. Future research should focus on predicting when and where mammalian predators impact on populations of indigenous fauna, furthering our understanding of the alpine predator guild particularly through adaptive management experiments, and exploring interactions with other threats.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

First population assessment of the black forest cat in Madagascar's rainforests


Farris, Z. J., Boone, H. M., Karpanty, S., Murphy, A., Ratelolahy, F., Andrianjakarivelo, V., & Kelly, M. J. (2016). Feral cats and the fitoaty: first population assessment of the black forest cat in Madagascar’s rainforests. Journal of Mammalogy, 97(2), 518-525.

Despite exceptionally high levels of biodiversity and endemism found in Madagascar, much of its wildlife remains little studied, particularly the carnivore community. The recently described, little-known black forest cat (locally known as “fitoaty”) is believed to be restricted to NE Madagascar and has been investigated only through village surveys and anecdotal accounts. From 2008 to 2012, we photographically sampled 7 forest sites with varying degrees of degradation and fragmentation across Makira Natural Park with the goals of: 1) estimating landscape occupancy for fitoaty (Felis spp.), 2) identifying variables influencing fitoaty occupancy, and 3) comparing fitoaty and feral cat (Felis spp.) occupancy across the landscape. We observed higher occupancy for fitoaty, minimal co-occurrence between fitoaty and feral cats (n = 2 sites), and strong divergence in habitat use. We provide the 1st assessment of fitoaty morphology, including comparisons with anecdotal reports, and the 1st population assessment of Madagascar’s exotic cat community with insights into factors associated with carnivore population trends in Madagascar. We suggest the described fitoaty is a phenotypically different form of the feral cat, but additional research is needed. Targeted management plans are needed to diminish the spread and potential negative effects of invasive cats across this important biologically diverse ecoregion.
Change in the probability of occupancy for fitoaty (black) and Felis spp. (gray) in response to: a) small mammal trap success and b)  distance to village (km). Photographic sampling was conducted across the Masoala-Makira landscape from 2008 to 2012

Feral cats driving the regional extinction of a threatened rodent in northern Australia

Davies, H. F., McCarthy, M. A., Firth, R. S., Woinarski, J. C., Gillespie, G. R., Andersen, A. N., ... & Murphy, B. P. (2016). Top‐down control of species distributions: feral cats driving the regional extinction of a threatened rodent in northern Australia. Diversity and Distributions.

Aim

To investigate whether feral cats influence the distribution of Australia's largest remnant population of the threatened brush-tailed rabbit-rat Conilurus penicillatus and examine whether they influenced the extinction probability of C. penicillatus over a 15-year period (2000–2015).

Location

Melville Island, northern Australia.

Methods

In 2015, small mammal surveys were conducted at 88 sites across Melville Island, 86 of which had previously been surveyed in 2000–2002. We used single-season occupancy models to investigate correlates of the current distribution of C. penicillatus and dynamic occupancy models to investigate correlates of C. penicillatus local extinction.

Results

Our results show that C. penicillatus, which once occurred more widely across the island, is now restricted to parts of the island where feral cats are rarely detected and shrub density is high. Our results suggest that feral cats are driving C. penicillatus towards extinction on Melville Island, and hence have likely been a significant driver in the decline of this species in northern Australia more broadly. The impact of feral cats appears to be mitigated by vegetation structure.

Main conclusions

The ongoing development and implementation of methods to effectively reduce feral cat densities, coupled with the management of landscape processes to maintain shrub density, through fire management and the removal of large exotic herbivores, will contribute substantially to conserving this threatened species. This study demonstrates that the distribution of species can be strongly influenced by top-down factors such as predation, thereby highlighting the importance of including biotic interactions when investigating the distribution of predation-susceptible species.


Saturday, 7 January 2017

Impact of a 3-year pet management program on pet population and owner’s perception

Costa, E. D., Martins, C. M., Cunha, G. R., Catapan, D. C., Ferreira, F., Oliveira, S. T., ... & Biondo, A. W. (2017). Impact of a 3-year pet management program on pet population and owner’s perception. Preventive Veterinary Medicine.

Although pet population management programs have been established worldwide, few reports on program evaluation have been carried out to date. Accordingly, a 3-year longitudinal study has been carried out in a 4,000 household neighborhood located within the metropolitan area of Curitiba, the eighth most populated city of Brazil. Visits were conducted and questionnaires completed to estimate and characterize the local pet population (animal sex, reproductive and vaccination status, street access). Care provided by owners, community perception on stray dog management and the possible changes were compared in these variables over time (2010 and 2013) were evaluated, after the establishment of a city pet population management program. In addition, associations between having children, owning dogs and cats, responsible pet ownership education and owner’s perception on stray dogs were statistically tested. A total of 354/4,000 (8.9%) household families were interviewed in 2010 and 70/354 (19.8%) of the same families again in 2013. No significant changes were found in overall number of dogs and cats and average pet age, animal care and owner’s perception on stray dogs following the 3-year population management program. In 2010, an average of 1.6 dogs and 0.3 cats were found per family, with slightly more females (51.3% dogs and 51.1% cats), adults (4.0 ± 3.5 years for dogs and 2.1 ± 2.4 for cats), intact (not neutered; 94.2% dogs and 84.0% cats) and lacking regular visit to veterinarian (71.6%). Although more families (53.1%) had children under 12 years old, no association was found between having children and having dogs and cats. Questionnaires revealed that owners perceived neutering/spaying to be the best pet population control method (42.4%), with “society” (50%) and “government” (49.4%) as responsible for pet population management. A significant positive association has been found between education level and the best way to control stray dogs (p = 0.03), between having dogs and in favor of neutering/spaying (p = 0.04) and considering neutering/spaying as the best control method (p = 0.02). The chances of thinking the best way to control stray dogs by neutering/spaying and adoption were almost 2.0 fold higher than other methods. In conclusion, the present study has provided indicators (education level, having dogs) for pet population control program assessment and effectiveness evaluation. Moreover, this study may serve as a warning on the real long-term effect of such programs, which should be periodically evaluated to identify necessary adjustments and/or improvements.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Interactions between invasive predators, native mammals and fire in a forest ecosystem

Hradsky, B. A. K. (2016). Interactions between invasive predators, native mammals and fire in a forest ecosystem (Doctoral dissertation, University of Melbourne).

A predator’s impact upon its prey depends not only on the evolutionary history and intrinsic characteristics of the two species, but also on the structure of the environment in which they interact. Fire is a major driver of vegetation structure, and there is growing concern that fire could increase the threat that invasive predators pose to native fauna. In this thesis, I investigated the interactions between fire, two invasive predators (red foxes Vulpes vulpes and feral cats Felis catus), and a suite of native mammal species. I used four different approaches to examine this problem within a fire-prone forest ecosystem of south-eastern Australia.


At a landscape-scale, species distributions are often poorly predicted by time-since-fire. I developed a conceptual model of the potential interactions between fire and other drivers of faunal occurrence (including predation), and then used non-parametric Bayesian networks to quantify these relationships for terrestrial native mammals. I found that critical-weight-range mammals were more likely to occur at long unburnt sites with high habitat complexity, and in wetter forest types. In contrast, large macropods preferred less complex habitats and younger or drier forest. Species distributions were generally more strongly associated with habitat complexity than time-since-fire or invasive predator occurrence. Yet, because Bayesian networks captured the relationships between proximal and distal drivers, models could effectively predict the distributions of most species using only mapped and remote-sensed data.

At a finer-scale, I used a before-after control-impact experiment to investigate the short-term effects of a prescribed fire on understorey vegetation cover, native mammal occurrence, and invasive predator occurrence and diet. Associations between species occurrences and vegetation cover in unburnt forest indicated that fire was likely to promote invasive predators but disadvantage small- and medium-sized native mammals. After the fire, there was a five-fold increase in invasive predator occurrence at burnt sites, relative to the control. Concurrently, red foxes increased their consumption of medium-sized native mammals, and selected more strongly for long-nosed bandicoots Perameles nasuta and short-beaked echidnas Tachyglossus aculeatus. The occurrence of several native mammals declined after the fire, but it was difficult to distinguish the effects of the fire from seasonal variation.

I used GPS-tracking collars to investigate whether forest-dwelling red foxes selected for human-modified habitats (including recently-burnt forest). There was substantial variation in fox behaviour, highlighting the importance of considering individual variation in habitat selection studies. At a broad-scale, however, red fox habitat selection tended to vary with proximity to the forest edge. Most foxes selected for human-modified habitats such as reservoirs, roads and forest-farmland edges in their fine-scale movements, particularly at night. Two foxes whose home-ranges overlapped a burn-block intensified their use of the block immediately after fire. Yet other nearby foxes showed little response, suggesting that fire responses are highly localised.

Finally, I used an agent-based simulation model to explore how changes in vegetation cover and predator abundance after fire could affect a critical-weight-range mammal. The model confirmed that fire and predation can have synergistically negative impacts on native mammal populations in burnt forest, and that local access to unburnt refuges substantially reduces these effects.

Invasive predators are highly opportunistic, wide-ranging and thoroughly integrated into this flammable forest ecosystem. Lethal control programs for foxes need to consider fox movement across land-tenures, and could selectively target habitat features such as roadsides, forest-farmland edges and recently-burnt forest. Habitat-based management approaches might also reduce invasive predator impacts on native mammals, for example by preserving dense vegetation in unburnt refuges, or removing anthropogenic resources that subsidise predator populations within forests. Evidence-based, integrated management of threatening processes is vital to conserving native biodiversity.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Exotics replace native carnivores in Madagascar rainforest

Farris, Z. J., Kelly, M. J., Karpanty, S., Murphy, A., Ratelolahy, F., Andrianjakarivelo, V., & Holmes, C. (2016). The times they are a changin': Multi-year surveys reveal exotics replace native carnivores at a Madagascar rainforest site. Biological Conservation.

Surveys across multiple seasons or years are necessary to evaluate the effects of dynamic processes on long-term persistence of wildlife populations, such as effects of exotic species on native species populations. Unfortunately, multi-year surveys are rare, particularly for rainforest carnivore populations, and managers often rely on single-season/year, ‘snapshot’ surveys that produce static estimates of population parameters. Here we provide results using single-species, multi-year occupancy modeling from a six-year survey (2008–2013) of a rainforest carnivore community at a 15 km2 area study site within the newly established Makira Natural Park, Madagascar. We demonstrate a precipitous decline in the native carnivore community with four of the six native carnivores (falanouc Eupleres goudotii, ring-tailed vontsira Galidia elegans, broad-striped vontsira Galidictis fasciata, and brown-tailed vontsira Salanoia concolor) decreasing by at least 60% over this six-year period. In addition, we observed two exotic carnivores (small Indian civet Viverricula indica and feral cat Felis species) colonize this study site with Felis species increasing in occupancy from 0 to 0.68 by the final year. Further, we demonstrate how variables associated with human encroachment (i.e. distance to forest edge and nearest village) are most important for explaining these trends in native carnivore extirpation and exotic carnivore colonization. These findings provide additional evidence on the threat posed to native carnivore populations by the expansion of exotic carnivores worldwide. We highlight the striking increase in extirpation, and the factors influencing such changes, for native carnivores. In this manuscript, we point to the limited number of multi-year surveys to evaluate dynamic processes on long-term persistence of native wildlife populations, as well as the lack of exotic carnivore control programs in threatened ecosystems in many developing nations as factors limiting our ability to effectively conserve biodiversity across the globe.
 Line graph demonstratingthe multi-year trendsin occupancy for A) four native carnivoresand B) two exotic carnivores. Photographic surveyswere conductedfrom 2008 to 2013 at a newly established study site within the Makira Natural Park, Madagascar.


How many feral cats are in Australia?

Legge, S., Murphy, B. P., McGregor, H., Woinarski, J. C. Z., Augusteyn, J., Ballard, G., ... & Edwards, G. (2016). Enumerating a continental-scale threat: How many feral cats are in Australia?. Biological Conservation.

Feral cats (Felis catus) have devastated wildlife globally. In Australia, feral cats are implicated in most recent mammal extinctions and continue to threaten native species. Cat control is a high-profile priority for Australian policy, research and management. To develop the evidence-base to support this priority, we first review information on cat presence/absence on Australian islands and mainland cat-proof exclosures, finding that cats occur across >99.8% of Australia's land area. Next, we collate 91 site-based feral cat density estimates in Australia and examine the influence of environmental and geographic influences on density. We extrapolate from this analysis to estimate that the feral cat population in natural environments fluctuates between 1.4 million (95% confidence interval: 1.0–2.3 million) after continent-wide droughts, to 5.6 million (95% CI: 2.5–11 million) after extensive wet periods. We estimate another 0.7 million feral cats occur in Australia's highly modified environments (urban areas, rubbish dumps, intensive farms). Feral cat densities are higher on small islands than the mainland, but similar inside and outside conservation land. Mainland cats reach highest densities in arid/semi-arid areas after wet periods. Regional variation in cat densities corresponds closely with attrition rates for native mammal fauna. The overall population estimate for Australia's feral cats (in natural and highly modified environments), fluctuating between 2.1 and 6.3 million, is lower than previous estimates, and Australian feral cat densities are lower than reported for North America and Europe. Nevertheless, cats inflict severe impacts on Australian fauna, reflecting the sensitivity of Australia's native species to cats and reinforcing that policy, research and management to reduce their impacts is critical.
The population size of feral cats in natural environments in Australia fluctuates between 1.4 and 5.6 million, depending on rainfall. An additional 0.7 million feral cats live in heavily modified environments like towns and intensive farms. The maps show the model predictions for cat density in natural environments across Australia during dry-average rainfall conditions (on the left) and after extensive rainfall events (on the right). They show that cat density is fairly uniform across the continent during average-dry conditions, but extensive rainfall events cause an increase in feral cat density in the inland of Australia. As predictors, the regression model includes mean annual rainfall, mean annual temperature, tree cover, ruggedness and fox presence/absence. For islands smaller than Tasmania, island area was also included as a predictor of density (small islands have higher cat densities). The dashed lines indicate the Tropic of Capricorn.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Proposed management plan for cats and black rats on Christmas Island.


Algar, D., & Johnston, M. (2010). Proposed management plan for cats and black rats on Christmas Island. Government of Western Australia Department of Environment and Conservation.


Proposed management plan for cats and black rats on Christmas Island 1Report outline The impact of cats on the biodiversity of Christmas Island is of concern to land management agencies and the broader  community.  Domestic  and  stray  cats  reside  in  the  residential,  commercial  and  light industrial  area while a population of feral cats exists across the rest of the island (i.e. mining lease, national park and other  Crown  land).  Concern  has  been  raised  regarding  the  threat  that  all ‘classes’  of  cats  present  to  the  viability  of  a  number  of  endangered  fauna  populations. Additionally,  previous  research  has  demonstrated  that  the  cats  on  the  island  also  have  a  very high  prevalence  of  Toxoplasmosis, a  parasite  that  can  lead  to  serious  human  health complications.The  management  of  cats  on  the  island  is  a  complex  task  as reduction/eradication in cat numbers alone could lead to changes in the abundance of other exotic species populations, especially  the  introduced  black  rat  which  then  may  threaten  wildlife  species  and  also  have disease implications.  
Land  management  agencies  on  Christmas  Island  have  commissioned  this report  which  describes  the  rationale and development of a long-term cat and black rat management and eradication plan to mitigate the environmental  and  social  impacts  of  cats  and  black  rats across  all  land  tenures  (shire-managed  lands,  Crown land including mine leases and Christmas Island National Park).   
The  report  provides  a  background  to  the  threats  and  impacts  of  cats and  black  rats  on  the  island’s  natural  and  social  environment,  including  wildlife  predation  and disease  threats  to  wildlife  and  human  health.  It  documents  previous  reports  in  relation  to impact  and  management  of  cats  and  black  rats  on  Christmas  Island.  The  current  local  cat management  laws  (Shire  of  Christmas  Island  Local  Law  for  the  Keeping  and  Control of Cats 2004) under the Local Government Act 1995 (WA) (CI) are evaluated (see Appendix 1) with the aim of limiting domestic and stray cat impact on the iconic native fauna of Christmas Island, promoting responsible cat ownership, compliance and enforcement of cat management laws and measures required to implement a ‘last cat policy’ for the Island.  
Cat  and  rodent  eradication  programs  and strategies  developed  and/or  implemented  by other conservation  agencies and local governments, particularly for islands are evaluated for their utility on Christmas Island. A strategy  is recommended that  provides  a staged approach  to  cat  and black  rat  management and  control  leading to eradication of one or both target species. Techniques, actions and priorities are described as are recommendations   of   where   additional   research   is   required.   A   monitoring   program   to   measure   the   effectiveness  of  the  strategy  is  reported which  enables  investigation  of  the potential  relationships  between  cats  and  their  invasive species  prey,  including  rodents  and centipedes,  and  strategies  to  address  any  negative environmental or social impacts of cat control. Monitoring requirements to maintain a cat and black rat free status including quarantine requirements to prevent, detect and quickly manage, new incursions are also discussed. 
Timelines and resource requirements to undertake this program are provided in Appendix 2. 

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Feral cats overlap with prey and competitors in primary and altered habitats

Bogdan, V., Jůnek, T., & Vymyslická, P. J. (2016). Temporal overlaps of feral cats with prey and competitors in primary and human-altered habitats on Bohol Island, Philippines. PeerJ, 4, e2288.

The vertebrate fauna of the Philippines, known for its diversity and high proportion of endemic species, comprises mainly small- to medium-sized forms with a few large exceptions. As with other tropical ecosystems, the major threats to wildlife are habitat loss, hunting and invasive species, of which the feral cat (Felis catus) is considered the most damaging. Our camera-trapping study focused on a terrestrial vertebrate species inventory on Bohol Island and tempo-spatial co-occurrences of feral cats with their prey and competitors. The survey took place in the Rajah Sikatuna Protected Landscape, and we examined the primary rainforest, its border with agricultural land, and rural areas in the vicinity of villages. Altogether, over 2,885 trap days we captured 30 species of vertebrates–10 mammals (including Sus philippensis), 19 birds and one reptile, Varanus cumingi. We trapped 81.8% of expected vertebrates. Based on the number of events, the most frequent native species was the barred rail (Gallirallus torquatus). The highest overlap in diel activity between cats and potential prey was recorded with rodents in rural areas (Δ = 0.62); the lowest was in the same habitat with ground-dwelling birds (Δ = 0.40). Cat activity was not recorded inside the rainforest; in other habitats their diel activity pattern differed. The cats’ activity declined in daylight in the proximity of humans, while it peaked at the transition zone between rainforest and fields. Both rodents and ground-dwelling birds exhibited a shift in activity levels between sites where cats were present or absent. Rodents tend to become active by day in cat-free habitats. No cats’ temporal response to co-occurrences of civets (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus and Viverra tangalunga) was found but cats in diel activity avoided domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris). Our first insight into the ecology of this invasive predator in the Philippines revealed an avoidance of homogeneous primary rainforest and a tendency to forage close to human settlements in heterogeneous habitats. A detailed further investigation of the composition of the cat’s diet, as well as ranging pattern, is still needed.

Stray dogs den close to humans

Majumder, S. S., Paul, M., Sau, S., & Bhadra, A. (2016). Denning habits of free-ranging dogs reveal preference for human proximity. Scientific Reports, 6, 32014.

Dens are crucial in the early development of many mammals, making den site selection an important component of parental care in such species. Resource availability and shelter from predators primarily govern den selection. Species inhabiting human-dominated landscapes typically den away from human disturbance, often shifting dens to avoid humans during the early life of their young. Domesticated dogs have evolved in human proximity over centuries, being bred and reared in human homes for generations. While pets rely on their owners for shelter and care, free-ranging dogs roam uncared, and typically whelp in dens. We conducted a study on 148 free-ranging dog dens in India to understand their denning habits. Distance from resources influenced den choice, but anthropogenic disturbance did not. Dens were found in areas of high human activity, and begging from humans was preferred over scavenging. A study on 15 pregnant females revealed that females actively searched for denning sites, rejecting several intermediate ones before selecting the final den. We propose that the obvious preference of dogs for denning close to humans is a behavioural adaptation that helps them to survive in the urban landscape, in spite of the high human induced mortality during the early life of pups.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Importance of CDV infection in free-ranging Iberian lynxes

Meli, M. L., Simmler, P., Cattori, V., Martínez, F., Vargas, A., Palomares, F., ... & Hofmann-Lehmann, R. (2010). Importance of canine distemper virus (CDV) infection in free-ranging Iberian lynxes (Lynx pardinus). Veterinary microbiology, 146(1), 132-137.

Canine distemper virus (CDV) is a morbillivirus that is the etiological agent of one of the most important viral diseases affecting canids and an expanding range of other carnivores. Using real-time RT-PCR, CDV RNA was detected in organs of an Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) found dead in the Doñana National Park, Southwestern Andalusia, Spain. This finding may be of great importance for the conservation of the species; at present the Iberian lynx is the most critically endangered wild felid. The aim of the present study was to elucidate the significance of CDV for the Iberian lynx population. High viral loads were evident in the dead lynx, suggesting an etiological involvement of CDV in its death. When carnivores from the same region were analyzed by CDV RT-PCR, a stone marten (Martes foina) was positive. Phylogenetic analyses demonstrated high identity of the two detected CDVs and a close relationship to the European dog lineage of CDV. Antibodies to CDV were detected in 14.8% of 88 tested free-ranging Iberian lynxes. The sample seroprevalence was significantly higher in lynxes from the Doñana Natural Space (22.9%) than Sierra Morena (5%). The stone marten and a red fox (Vulpes vulpes) also tested seropositive. In conclusion, CDV is present in the Iberian lynx population, especially in the Doñana region, with sporadic cases of disease. To reduce the infectious pressure of CDV on this endangered population, a mass dog vaccination should be considered.

Human-cat relationship in an oceanic biosphere reserve

Medina, F. M., Nogales, M., Farnworth, M. J., & Bonnaud, E. (2016). Human-cat relationship in an oceanic biosphere reserve: The case of La Palma Island, Canary archipelago. Journal for Nature Conservation.

Removal of feral cats from island environments is a useful mechanism by which their ecological impact on endangered species can be reduced or ended. Nevertheless, because cats are anthropogenic in their origins, social perceptions of management practices play a large role in their implementation. Four-hundred questionnaires were delivered (386 were returned) with 100 going to each of the following: local residents; environmental workers; tourists; and, hunters. Questions explored respondents’ knowledge about island biodiversity and invasive species as well as attitudes towards cat population management methods. Habitat destruction and introduction of invasive species were considered the main threats for the conservation of island biodiversity. Most respondents considered cats to have a negative impact on biodiversity and sterilization campaigns were considered most appropriate for cat population control. Several free sterilization campaigns have been conducted in La Palma Island Biosphere Reserve in order to reduce free-ranging cats and were well received by local people. This research, which combined concepts of management, ecology and social sciences, provides valuable insights which may to be applicable on several other islands where cats and people are present and in conflict with conservation priorities.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Preliminary data on the distribution of free-ranging dogs in a Bulgarian National Park

Doykin, N., Popova, E., Zlatanov, V., Petrov, P., & Zlatanova, D. 2016. Preliminary data on the distribution of free-ranging dogs (Canis familiaris L.) in NP Vitosha, Bulgaria. Annuaire de l’Université de Sofia “St. Kliment Ohridski” Faculte de Biologie 2016, volume 101, livre 4, pp. 11-22. Youth Scientific Conference “Kliment’s Days”, Sofia 2015

Free-ranging dogs often leave the urbanized areas and stray into nearby mountainous habitats, even entering protected areas. This causes problems for the wildlife due to either direct predation or disturbance. Our camera trap survey (July 2013 - November 2014) in NP Vitosha, Bulgaria resulted in a total of 199 independent registrations of free-ranging dogs in 81 locations. In this preliminary study, we present the distribution, habitat selection, and distance from settlements and activity of free ranging dogs in Vitosha NP. The free-ranging dogs in Vitosha are predominantly diurnal, and show preference towards coniferous and mixed forests, mostly closed. Their distribution and activity patterns are influenced by human presence, which is due to the fact that they at least partially rely on human-sourced food. Some data for observations of wild animals influenced by dogs is also discussed. 

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Analysis of six Latin American cat populations through coat genes and molecular microsatellite markers

Ruiz-García, M., & Alvarez, D. (2003). Análisis de seis poblaciones latinoamericanas de gatos mediante genes del pelaje y marcadores microsatélites. Acta zoológica mexicana, (89), 261-286. (Analysis of six Latin American cat populations through coat genes and molecular microsatellite markers)

Six Latin American cat populations (La Havana, San Jose, Bogotá, Asunción, Buenos Aires and Santiago) have been studied from a population genetics standpoint by using different morphological coat and molecular microsatellite markers (FCA43, FCA45, FCA96 and FCA126). The main aims of the current work are as follows: (1) To determine whether the type and intensity of the genetic differences found for diverse morphological loci among the current British cat populations and those from the British oversea colonies (USA, Canada and Australia) agree with the differences among the current Spanish cat populations and those from Latin America and (2) to determine if the genetic relationships among some of these Latin American cat populations are in agreement by using independently morphological and molecular microsatellite markers. The different results obtained were as follows: (A) All populations analyzed were in Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium at the O, S and at the four microsatellite loci studied with the exception of La Havana at the S locus. (B) The trees obtained showed that the relationships of the six cat populations studied regard to the Spanish populations, in particular, and with the European populations, in general, were extremely heterogeneous. Therefore, for instance, Asuncion was genetically identical to some Catalonian populations meanwhile Santiago (Chile) revealed more resemblance with the cat populations of presumed British origin in the Eastern Coast of the United States by means of the coat color genes. The striking genetic heterogeneity among some of these Latin American cat populations could be explained by the existence of different geographic, or temporal, migrations from Spain and/or that diverse gene drift degrees were present in the foundation of the diverse populations studied. Finally, the molecular results were similar to those obtained with the gross morphological genes. Therefore, the overall evolution of these morphological markers is controlled more probably by neutral stochastic forces than by selective ones.

Resumen
Seis poblaciones latinoamericanas de gatos (La Habana, San José, Bogotá, Asunción, Buenos Aires y Santiago) han sido estudiadas desde una perspectiva genético poblacional con marcadores que codifican características morfológicas del pelaje y marcadores moleculares nucleares microsatélites (FCA43, FCA45, FCA96, FCA126). A partir de las frecuencias alélicas de ambos tipos de marcadores genéticos se investigó: (1) si el tipo y la intensidad de las diferencias genéticas encontradas para diversos loci morfológicos entre las poblaciones de gatos en Gran Bretaña y en sus ex-colonias transmarítimas (EU, Canadá, Australia) se dio también entre las poblaciones de gatos actuales en España y en Latinoamérica y (2) si las relaciones genéticas de esos caracteres morfológicos entre algunas de esas poblaciones latinoamericanas de gatos fue paralela a las relaciones encontradas con marcadores moleculares microsatélites. Los resultados obtenidos fueron: (A) Todas las poblaciones analizadas estuvieron en equilibrio Hardy-Weinberg para los loci O, S y para los cuatro loci microsatélites estudiados, con la excepción de la población de La Habana para el locus S. (B) Los fenogramas obtenidos mostraron que las relaciones de las seis poblaciones latinoamericanas de gatos respecto a las poblaciones españolas y europeas fueron muy heterogéneas. Por ejemplo, la población de Asunción (Paraguay) fue genéticamente indistinguible de algunas poblaciones de gatos analizadas en Cataluña, tanto con los genes morfológicos como con los microsatélites, mientras que Santiago presentó más semejanzas con las poblaciones de gatos de presunto origen británico en la costa Este de los Estados Unidos cuando se utilizaron los genes del pelaje. La fuerte heterogeneidad genética entre algunas de las poblaciones latinoamericanas estudiadas hace pensar en que diversas migraciones geográficas, o temporales, se dieron desde España, o que diversos grados de deriva genética se dieron en la fundación de las diferentes poblaciones latinoamericanas estudiadas. Finalmente, los resultados moleculares son similares a los obtenidos con los genes de codificación morfológica por lo que la evolución global de éstos parece más modulada por fuerzas neutrales que selectivas.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Spatial ecology and population genetics of cats living in or near conservation-sensitive areas

Cross, C. (2016). Spatial ecology and population genetics of cats (Felis catus) living in or near conservation-sensitive areas (Doctoral dissertation, University of Otago).


Human-mediated dispersal of organisms across the world has resulted in species introductions into many vulnerable ecosystems. Invasive mammalian predators have had detrimental impacts on native island biota, leading to declines and extinctions of many endemic prey species. Humans have transported cats (Felis catus) across the world as mousers on ships and as companion animals. The role cats (especially feral) have played in the decline and extinction of several island species is clear; however, different types of cats classified by their associations with humans has an influence on the public perception of cat impacts on wildlife and acceptance of appropriate management strategies.
I studied the spatial ecology of two different types of cats in two different conservation-sensitive areas (Te Anau Basin and Canterbury/North Otago) in the South Island of New Zealand. I conducted this research to gain an insight into companion cat spatial ecology and feral cat population genetics. Specifically, to investigate individual cat movement patterns and population level movements to discover putative geographic barriers to movement. Additionally, I intended to aid formulation and reinforcement of appropriate and current management strategies with respect to conservation-sensitive areas that support high levels of native biodiversity.
Cat capture rates in the Tasman Valley from March 2005 toFebruary 2013 (included as 2012).

In the Te Anau Basin, the township of Te Anau lies on the edge of Lake Te Anau, directly adjacent to Fiordland National Park. The Kepler Mire conservation area, also situated in the Te Anau Basin, is a nearby wetland that supports a diverse range of fauna. I GPS tracked 32 local companion cats (11F:21M) for a maximum of 10 to 14 days over the austral spring/summer. I recorded a total of 19,157 locations prior to filtering data for erroneous locations. Home range and habitat analysis were performed on a filtered dataset of 13,241 locations using 100% minimum convex polygons (MCP) and Objective-Restricted-Edge Polygons (OREP). Dispersal barriers might be acting to prevent movement of tracked cats into Fiordland National Park, but not the Kepler Mire conservation area. I found males (mean MCP: 22.13 ha, OREP: 1.05 ha) exhibited larger movements (home range and distance travelled from home) than females (mean MCP: 8.83 ha, OREP: 0.45 ha) and rural-living cats (mean MCP: 32.54 ha, OREP 1.33 ha) exhibited larger movements than urban-living cats (mean MCP: 5.90 ha, OREP: 0.46 ha).  Cats showed a tendency to preferentially select Built, Cover and Sealed habitat features.  Although there was great individual variation in the ranging behaviour, there was no sex or age-related difference observed in the cats’ resource selection.
To infer population movements, I used 10 microsatellite loci and a sexidentification marker, in a multiplex framework, to infer population structure of 157 feral cats in the upper Waitaki Basin (Tasman Valley, Ohau River and Ahuriri Valley) and Macraes Flat. I found some evidence of population connectivity between the sites based on migration rates and low FST values, indicating features in the landscape that act to facilitate dispersal. Bayesian clustering analysis noted the presence of three separate clusters; however, assignment rates were low for the Ohau River, Tasman Valley and Macraes Flat sites. Spatial autocorrelation and Mantel tests indicated rough terrain (i.e. mountain ranges) might limit dispersal. Macraes Flat and Ohau River might function as man-made sinks due to lower relatedness scores. Lower relatedness, genetic differentiation scores, and proximity to human habituation suggested there might be genetic input from nearby stray and companion cat populations. Due to large movements exhibited by feral cats in these areas, reinvasion into trapped areas seems likely; however, the Tasman Valley might be able to be managed as an eradication unit, if movement out of the Ohau River and surrounding area is reduced. Continued genetic monitoring of
these sites and sampling of local stray and companion cats might help to identify if there is connectivity between different types of cats (i.e. companion, stray and feral). Additionally, continued genetic monitoring might be able to determine if genetic differentiation increases between each site in response to trapping operations.
Tighter regulations regarding companion cat management might aid New Zealand conservation efforts by reducing and restricting movement and cat interactions with native wildlife. Stricter companion and stray cat regulations might also benefit feral cat control efforts; however, this aspect requires further analysis. 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...