The effects of agricultural expansion on the large mammals of the Cerrado

Responsible Institute:

Biological Conservation Center, University of Washington, Seattle, United States

Using scat detector dogs, this project has investigated the jaguar, puma, giant armadillo, giant anteater and maned wolf distribution in the fragmented landscape of the Emas National Park region.

Scat detector dogs are frequently used to study the distribution of rare species difficult to observe in nature. This non-invasive method was developed by the Biological Conservation Center of the University of Washington and in this project was used with the objective to investigate the population status and health of the maned wolf, as well as the distribution of others mammal species in the fragmented landscape of the Cerrado.

Between the years 2006 and 2008, 800 km² (197,683 acres) were sampled inside Emas National Park and 3,300 km² (815,444 acres) on the surrounding rural properties to locate scats of jaguar, puma, maned wolf, giant armadillo and giant anteater. Scats allow extraction of genetic material to confirm the species, and to identify sex and individual. To assess stress levels, nutritional status and reproductive health of the sampled populations, hormone concentrations are measured in the feces. Diet and endoparasites are also analyzed.

Preliminary results show that although all species occur inside ENP and surrounding areas, the jaguar is more restricted to the immediate surroundings of the park. The maned wolf frequently uses the surrounding region but has a more varied diet inside the park. Research by Mike Kinsella, partner of the project, revealed 13 different species of endoparasites for maned wolves. Evidence of giant armadillos (also see Giant Armadillo Ecology and Conservation Project) was found in anthropogenic habitats, but not more than 100 m away from their natural habitats. The information collected in this study show how the abundance, distribution and physiological health of the studied species vary in the fragmented landscape of the Cerrado region of Emas National Park.

Associated thesis:

Vynne, C. Connectivity conservation and wide-ranging mammals: landscape matrix composition affects the distribution and physiological health of six mammals in the Cerrado of Brazil. PhD Thesis, University of Washington, Seattle. Start: 2004.

Read more about this topic:

Furtado, M. M., Carrillo-Percastegui, S. E., Jácomo, A. T. A., Powell, G., Silveira, L., Vynne, C., and Sollmann. Studying Jaguars in the Wild: Past Experiences and Future Perspectives. Cat news Special Issue 4, 41-47.

Silveira, L.; Jácomo, A. T. A.; Furtado, M. M.; Tôrres, N. M.; Sollmann, R.; Vynne, C. 2009. Ecology of the giant armadillo (Priodontes maximus) in the grasslands of central Brazil. Edentata, in press.