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

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Street dog population survey in a valley in Nepal

Acharya, M., & Dhakal, S. (2015). Survey on Street Dog Population in Pokhara Valley of Nepal. Bangladesh Journal of Veterinary Medicine, 13(1), 65-70.

A survey was carried out to determine the population of street dogs and people’s opinion about their persistence in Pokhara Valley, Nepal. Information of street dog population was necessary to construct a future animal birth control (ABC) plans. For this, mark-resight survey method was used. Further, local residents were interviewed to know their opinion about the persistence of street dog population in that area. Among total 1767 dogs, 1072 (60.66%) were male, 641 (36.28%) were female and 54 (3.06%) were puppies. About 367 (57.25%) of the female street dogs were already spayed. A total of 371 local residents were interviewed to know their opinion about the causes of persistent street dogs in Pokhara Valley. Numerous reasons were put forward including unmanaged slaughter house (24.5%), abandoned due to disease (15.4%) and abandoned due to unmanageable estrus behavior (10.2%). Future ABC programs may need to consider these factors responsible for maintaining persistent street dog population, to enable control over street dog population in an efficient and sustainable manner. 

Monday, 22 June 2015

Cat owners' perception of their cats' impacts on wildlife

McDonald, J. L., Maclean, M., Evans, M. R., & Hodgson, D. J. (2015). Reconciling actual and perceived rates of predation by domestic cats. Ecology and Evolution.

The predation of wildlife by domestic cats (Felis catus) is a complex problem: Cats are popular companion animals in modern society but are also acknowledged predators of birds, herpetofauna, invertebrates, and small mammals. A comprehensive understanding of this conservation issue demands an understanding of both the ecological consequence of owning a domestic cat and the attitudes of cat owners. Here, we determine whether cat owners are aware of the predatory behavior of their cats, using data collected from 86 cats in two UK villages. We examine whether the amount of prey their cat returns influences the attitudes of 45 cat owners toward the broader issue of domestic cat predation. We also contribute to the wider understanding of physiological, spatial, and behavioral drivers of prey returns among cats. We find an association between actual prey returns and owner predictions at the coarse scale of predatory/nonpredatory behavior, but no correlation between the observed and predicted prey-return rates among predatory cats. Cat owners generally disagreed with the statement that cats are harmful to wildlife, and disfavored all mitigation options apart from neutering. These attitudes were uncorrelated with the predatory behavior of their cats. Cat owners failed to perceive the magnitude of their cats' impacts on wildlife and were not influenced by ecological information. Management options for the mitigation of cat predation appear unlikely to work if they focus on “predation awareness” campaigns or restrictions of cat freedom.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Epidemiology of Dog and Cat Abandonment in Spain

Fatjó, J., Bowen, J., García, E., Calvo, P., Rueda, S., Amblás, S., & Lalanza, J. F. (2015). Epidemiology of Dog and Cat Abandonment in Spain (2008–2013). Animals, 5(2), 426-441.

Millions of pets are abandoned worldwide every year, which is an important animal welfare and financial problem. This paper was divided into three studies. Our first two studies were designed as a national survey of animal shelters to profile the population of stray dogs and cats, as well as to gather information on both relinquishment and adoption. The aim of our third study was to test the impact of identification on the recovery of dogs entering animal shelters. Studies one and two indicate that more than 100,000 dogs and more than 30,000 cats enter animal shelters annually in Spain. We observed a seasonal effect in the number of admissions in cats. Two-thirds of dogs and cats entering shelters were found as strays, while the rest were relinquished directly to the shelter. Most pets admitted to animal shelters were adult, non-purebred, and without a microchip, with the majority of dogs being medium sized. Adult dogs spent significantly more time in shelters than puppies. While most animals were either adopted or recovered by their owner, a considerable percentage remained at the shelter or was euthanized. The identification of dogs with a microchip increased by 3-fold the likelihood of them being returned to the owner.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Interactions between invasive predators and other ecological disturbances

Doherty, T. S., Dickman, C. R., Nimmo, D. G., & Ritchie, E. G. (2015). Multiple threats, or multiplying the threats? Interactions between invasive predators and other ecological disturbances. Biological Conservation, 190, 60-68.

Invasive species have reshaped the composition of biomes across the globe, and considerable cost is now associated with minimising their ecological, social and economic impacts. Mammalian predators are among the most damaging invaders, having caused numerous species extinctions. Here, we review evidence of interactions between invasive predators and six key threats that together have strong potential to influence both the impacts of the predators, and their management. We show that impacts of invasive predators can be classified as either functional or numerical, and that they interact with other threats through both habitat- and community-mediated pathways. Ecosystem context and invasive predator identity are central in shaping variability in these relationships and their outcomes. Greater recognition of the ecological complexities between major processes that threaten biodiversity, including changing spatial and temporal relationships among species, is required to both advance ecological theory and improve conservation actions and outcomes. We discuss how novel approaches to conservation management can be used to address interactions between threatening processes and ameliorate invasive predator impacts.
Six key disturbances that interact with invasive predators, clockwise from top left: fire, altered prey populations, top-predator declines, resource subsidies, land clearing, and grazing by large herbivores. Clockwise from top left: CSIRO (CC BY 3.0); CSIRO (CC BY 3.0), T Doherty; T Doherty; endymion120 (Flickr, CC BY 2.0); USDA (public domain).

Density and home range of feral cats in NW Australia

McGregor, H. W., Legge, S., Potts, J., Jones, M. E., & Johnson, C. N. (2015). Density and home range of feral cats in north-western Australia. Wildlife Research.

Context: Feral cats (Felis catus) pose a significant threat to biodiversity in Australia, and are implicated in current declines of small mammals in the savannas of northern Australia. Basic information on population density and ranging behaviour is essential to understand and manage threats from feral cats.

Aims: In this study, we provide robust estimates of density and home range of feral cats in the central Kimberley region of north-western Australia, and we test whether population density is affected by livestock grazing, small mammal abundance and other environmental factors.

Methods: Densities were measured at six transects sampled between 2011 and 2013 using arrays of infrared cameras. Cats were individually identified, and densities estimated using spatially explicit capture–recapture analysis. Home range was measured from GPS tracking of 32 cats.

Key results: Densities were similar across all transects and deployments, with a mean of 0.18 cats km-2(range = 0.09–0.34 /km2). We found no evidence that population density was related to livestock grazing or abundance of small mammals. Home ranges of males were, on average, 855 ha (±156 ha (95% CI), n = 25), and those of females were half the size at 397 ha (±275 ha (95% CI), n = 7). There was little overlap in ranges of cats of the same sex.

Conclusions: Compared with elsewhere in Australia outside of semiarid regions, feral cats occur at low density and have large home ranges in the central Kimberley. However, other evidence shows that despite this low density, cats are contributing to declines of small mammal populations across northern Australia.

Implications: It will be very difficult to reduce these already-sparse populations by direct control. Instead, land-management practices that reduce the impacts of cats on prey should be investigated.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Ecological Restoration of sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island

Springer, K. Ecological Restoration of sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island.

Invasive vertebrate species have had devastating impacts on the flora, fauna and landforms of Macquarie Island over a period of 200 years. Following the successful eradication of weka (Gallirallus australis) by 1989 and feral cats (Felis catus) by 2001, planning for the eradication of ship rats (Rattus rattus), house mice (Mus musculus) and European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) began in 2004. Funding of AUD$24.7M was secured in 2007 for a multi-year project based on aerial baiting targeting rabbits and rodents followed by ground hunting targeting surviving rabbits. The first aerial baiting attempt in 2010 was abandoned due to unfavourable weather and shipping delays. The degree of non-target seabird species mortality from limited baiting in 2010 lead to a renewed examination of non-target mitigation options. Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV) was introduced in February 2011, to reduce the pre-baiting rabbit population and thus minimise non-target mortality amongst scavenging seabirds. Aerial baiting resumed in May 2011 using four AS350 helicopters and a team of 27 people, and was completed by July 2011. No rodents have been detected post-baiting and the estimated rabbit population of 150,000 has been reduced to fewer than 30 at the conclusion of baiting The rabbit hunting phase commenced in July 2011 using a team of 15 hunters and 12 dogs and is ongoing, with thirteen rabbits accounted for. Hunting and monitoring is expected to take a total of five years post-baiting and will be based on annual progress reviews. A minimum of two years monitoring will be conducted. Rodent detection dogs will deploy in 2013 to assist in determining rodent eradication success.
Six months after baiting, vegetation recovery was already evident and increased burrownesting seabird activity has also been observed in the first breeding season post-baiting.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Stray Dog Control and Zoonotic Disease Prevention in Grenada

Bidaisee, S. (2015). Stray Dog Control and Zoonotic Disease Prevention in Grenada. In 143rd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition (October 31-November 4, 2015). APHA.

Introduction: Grenada, a small island in the Eastern Caribbean, is home to a significant population of stray dogs. Stray dogs pose a serious public health risk, as they are associated with an increased prevalence of zoonotic disease. The objective of this study was to evaluate Grenada’s stray dog control practices.

Methodology: Mixed methods approach utilizing secondaty quantitative data analysis of available data on registration/vaccination rates, number of dogs captured and outcome of dog captures for the years 2008-2012 and qualitative enquiry utilizing Interviews with agencies involved with dog population control. A document review was also conducted to compared for similarities and differences between the ‘Dogs (Registration and Control)’ Act 24 found in Laws of Grenada 2002 and World Organisation for Animal Health’s (OIE) ‘Guidelines on stray dog population control.

Results: There was a decrease in the number of dogs registered/vaccinated between 2008 and 2012. Meanwhile there was an increase in both dogs captured and dog related complaints. The majority of dogs captured by the SDCP control officers were euthanized, while a small number were adopted out from the SDCP facility or from the GSPCA kennel, some were returned to the owner, and a small number died while held in the SDCP facility. Interview data recommended that integration among stakeholders and increased access to the program's services in rural communities is needed. Documents demonstrated that the legislative Act provided adequate framework for stray dog control

Conclusion: Expansion of Stray Dog Control Program services is needed to reduce free-roaming dogs in public places and disease risk to humans.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Sexual dimorphism and offspring sex ratio in feral cats

Perkins, T.C. 2015. Sexual dimorphism and offspring sex ratio in feral cats.

This pilot study investigated several reproductive parameters including anogenital
distance and intrauterine position to determine its effects, if any, on fertility factors such as litter
size and sex ratio in feral cats in the NC triad. While it is known that males possess larger
anogenital distances across many mammalian species, some of the first averages on anogenital
distance in feral cats were calculated in this study. The average anogenital distance on male cats
in this study was found to be 2.22 cm and 1.29 for females (includes all females analyzed:
pregnant and normal females). The data obtained in this study indicate that there is no
statistically significant correlation between body mass and anogenital distance in neither males
nor females. No conclusion could be made as to whether anogenital distance affected litter sex
ratio due to sample size limitations of this study. With regards to anogenital distance and an
effect on litter size, no statistically significant correlation was found between the two variables.
Intrauterine position results were inconclusive, once again due to sample size limitations of this
study. While more information is necessary before it can be determined whether the
phenomenona of anogenital distance and intrauterine position are reliable predictors of
pregnancy outcomes (including litter size and sex ratios), the results of this study demonstrates
the lack of correlation between several variables and indicates the relationships between
variables that require more data collection. It also established the sexual dimorphism of
anogenital distance in feral cats. 

Alternative approach to Feral Cat management

Rising, G. R. Feral Cat Problems: A Reconsideration of Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return and An Alternative Approach.
Cat TNVR (Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return) is widely proposed as a response to problems with feral cats. Unfortunately the R of that acronym, returning the cats into the environment from which they were trapped, creates serious problems: feral cat communities are established where cats are fed and protected by volunteers but otherwise continue to range free. Research shows many negative results of this: (1) these cats continue to kill birds and mammals at an alarming rate; (2) the process not only does not, as widely claimed, reduce the number of feral cats but instead often increases their population; (3) availability of the colonies encourages abandonment of additional house pets; (4) despite vaccination there are human and wildlife health risks associated with feral cats; and (5) the process is very expensive and, because the cat population is not reduced, these costs do not decline over time. A proposal for the removal of feral cats from the environment through containment is offered as an alternative.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Cats in unpopulated areas

Cats probably arrived in Australia before 1788 due to early European contacts. Since that time they have spread across the continent. Their disperal was assisted by farmers, who in the past deliberately released cats around burrows as a form of rabbit control (1).

Adult cats maintain discrete home ranges (2). They can breed at any time of the year. There is no specific breeding season, but most kittens are born in spring to late summer/autumn. Females average 2 litters a year, with an average of 4.4 kittens/litter.

Even though juvenile survival is limited by the availability of easily caught prey, such as young rabbits (2), a cat population can increase dramatically.

For example, in 1949, 5 cats were introduced to Marion Island. After 25 years, the population on the island was over 2000 (3).
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