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

Thursday 24 July 2014

Increase in seabirds and changes in soil nutrients after removal of feral predators and alien plants

VanderWerf, E. A., Young, L. C., Crow, S. E., Opie, E., Yamazaki, H., Miller, C. J., Anderson, D.G., Brown, L.S., Smith D.G. & Eijzenga, J. (2014). Increase in Wedge‐tailed Shearwaters and Changes in Soil Nutrients following Removal of Alien Mammalian Predators and Nitrogen‐fixing Plants at Kaena Point, Hawaii. Restoration Ecology.

A predator-proof fence was built at Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve, Hawaii in 2010 as part of an ecosystem restoration project. All non-native mammalian predators were removed and are now excluded. Non-native plants are being removed and native species are being outplanted. We monitored abundance and reproduction of Puffinus pacificus (wedge-tailed shearwaters), collected soil samples before and after fence construction, and examined the relationship between changes in shearwater numbers and soil nutrients. Shearwater numbers increased over time, from 11 young produced in 1994 to 3,274 in 2012. The average number of shearwaters produced during the 3 years before and after fence construction increased from 614 ± 249 to 2,359 ± 802 (384% increase). The average number of shearwater pairs attempting to nest also increased during the same periods, from 3,265 ± 827 to 4,726 ± 826 (45% increase). Soil samples from 2010 to 2013 showed an overall decline in concentration of ammonium (NH4+) and no change in concentration of nitrate (NO3) or orthophosphate (PO43−). . However, there was a positive relationship between changes in shearwater numbers and changes in ammonium. Examination of spatial patterns in nutrient abundance showed that the highest nutrient concentrations occurred in areas dominated by the non-native nitrogen-fixing plants Leucaena leucocephala and Prosopis pallida. Removal of these plants caused local nutrient declines, but increases in shearwater numbers have countered this at some points. We anticipate that shearwaters and other seabirds will replace non-native plants as the dominant source of nitrogen and phosphorous and facilitate recovery of a native-dominated plant assemblage.

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Emerging and re-emerging zoonoses of dogs and cats

Chomel, B. B. (2014). Emerging and Re-Emerging Zoonoses of Dogs and Cats.Animals, 4(3), 434-445.

Simple Summary: Dogs and cats have been sharing our environment for a long time and as pets they bring major psychological well-being to our modern urbanized society. However, they still can be a source of human infection by various pathogens, including viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi.

Abstract: Since the middle of the 20th century, pets are more frequently considered as “family members” within households. However, cats and dogs still can be a source of human infection by various zoonotic pathogens. Among emerging or re-emerging zoonoses, viral diseases, such as rabies (mainly from dog pet trade or travel abroad), but also feline cowpox and newly recognized noroviruses or rotaviruses or influenza viruses can sicken our pets and be transmitted to humans. Bacterial zoonoses include bacteria transmitted by bites or scratches, such as pasteurellosis or cat scratch disease, leading to severe clinical manifestations in people because of their age or immune status and also because of our closeness, not to say intimacy, with our pets. Cutaneous contamination with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Leptospira spp., and/or aerosolization of bacteria causing tuberculosis or kennel cough are also emerging/re-emerging pathogens that can be transmitted by our pets, as well as gastro-intestinal pathogens such as Salmonella or Campylobacter. Parasitic and fungal pathogens, such as echinococcosis, leishmaniasis, onchocercosis, or sporotrichosis, are also re-emerging or emerging pet related zoonoses. Common sense and good personal and pet hygiene are the key elements to prevent such a risk of zoonotic infection.

Sunday 20 July 2014

How feral cats impact on sheep production

Reddin, J. (2014). How feral cats impact on sheep production. JULY 9–11 ADELAIDE, 62.

... The cat is an extremely capable hunter especially in Australia where our native fauna has had no experience over the last 100 million years with a predator with such exquisite killing skills. Cats have a huge impact on our fauna.
Cats are also a pest to the Sheep Industry for they are the carriers of two single celled parasites that readily infest sheep, commonly called “Sarco” and “Toxo”...

Saturday 19 July 2014

Key features and animal welfare implications of rabies control

Aréchiga, C. N., Karunaratna, D., & Aguilar, S. A. (2014). Control of canine rabies in developing countries: key features and animal welfare implications. Revue scientifique et technique (International Office of Epizootics), 33(1), 311.

Over 90% of human deaths from rabies worldwide are caused by dog bites. Mass vaccination, along with the effective control of dog populations, has been used successfully in industrialised countries to control this disease. A lower success rate in developing countries is due to a number of factors, including vaccination campaigns that do not cover a sufficient number of animals or reach all communities, and a wide biodiversity that increases the number of reservoirs of the rabies virus. Educational programmes are needed, which focus on the commitment involved when acquiring a domestic animal, stating clearly what is required to provide it with a good quality of life. New technologies developed in the industrialised world will not always be successful in less developed countries. Approaches must be adapted to the particular conditions in each country, taking cultural and socio-economic issues into account. Authorities must promote research on dog population dynamics, the development of non-invasive methods to control dog populations and the most efficient, stable and low-cost options for vaccination. Under the One Health model, it is hoped that dog-transmitted human rabies will be accorded high priority as a zoonosis by human health authorities, international authorities and donor agencies to support ambitious eradication goals, particularly those being set in South-East Asia. Well-designed and adequately resourced vaccination programmes, based on the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) guidelines, will have significant animal welfare benefits, due to the availability of improved vaccines (in terms of efficacy, duration of immunity, ease of administration and lower cost), advances in dog population management and the more widespread implementation of the OIE Guidelines on Stray Dog Control. Animal welfare benefits include not only the elimination of pain and suffering caused by the clinical disease itself, but also the avoidance of the indirect impact of inhumane culling when methods are used that have not been approved by the OIE.

Friday 18 July 2014

Stray animal populations and public health in the South Mediterranean and Middle East

Seimenis, A., & Tabbaa, D. (2014). Stray animal populations and public health in the South Mediterranean and the Middle East regions. Veterinaria italiana,50(2), 131.

Uncontrolled urban growth in South Mediterranean and the Middle East regions involves city dwellers and stray animals (mainly dogs and cats) creating a dense and downgraded environment, in which irregular street garbage collection disposes sufficient food for survival and proliferation of stray animals. Under such conditions serious public health hazards are expected due to the increase of animal bites, the multiplication of insects and rodents vectors of different viral, bacterial, fungal and parasitic agents to which humans are exposed. Traditional national stray animal eradication programs and occasional small animals' humane elimination campaigns are insufficient to avert human and veterinary health risks when not coupled with modern technologies. In such environments, multiple foci of emerging and re-emerging zoonoses easily spread, i.e. rabies, hydatidosis, leishmaniasis and toxoplasmosis. Upgrading urban and peri-urban situations requires integrated/coordinated management programmes, in which public and animal health services as well as municipalities have a crucial role. Control and upgrading programmes should be flexible and able to adapt to the specific conditions of the given country/region. In this context, intersectoral/interprofessional collaborations and community participation are crucial for any national and regional development strategies. In this respect, a global approach considering both public health and socio-economic problems shows to be extremely adequate and effective.

ABC: keep cats indoors

Thursday 17 July 2014

Parity and age related to toxoplasmosis among pregnant women in Rabat, Morocco

Laboudi, M., El Mansouri, B., & Rhajaoui, M. (2014). The role of the parity and the age in acquisition of Toxoplasmosis among pregnant women in Rabat-Morocco. International Journal of Innovation and Applied Studies, 6 (3): 488-492

Objectives: This retrospective study was undertaken between 2008 and 2009 to assess the seroprevalence of Toxoplasmosis among pregnant women and the role of the parity, the age and the abortion presence or absence in acquisition of infection pregnant women at the National Institute of health in Rabat in Morocco. 

Methods: Specific T. gondii IgG and IgM were measured by Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA). Datation of the infection was carried out by avidity test. All existing data for every pregnant woman were collected from medical report. 

Results: Among 1169 pregnant women of different age diagnosed, 47% were found to be IgG seropositive including 1,5 % of IgM seropositive. The use of IgG avidity test allowed to exclude recent infection among 72,2 % of IgM positive sera. The result of bivariate analysis revealed that the age and parity influenced significantly the seroprevalence rate, whilst the existence of previous spontaneous abortion did not have any significant statistical correlation with the positivity of toxoplasmosis. 

Conclusion: This study showed that 53 % pregnant women were susceptible to T. gondii and considered to be at high risk for toxoplasmosis during pregnancy. However, the follow-up of pregnancy and Counselling of pregnant women remains essential of the prevention of congenital toxoplasmosis. 

Wednesday 16 July 2014

Factors affecting the presence of dogs in streets

Ibarra, L., F. Espínola, M. Echeverría. 2006. Factors related to the presence of dogsin the streets of Santiago City, Chile. Avances en Ciencias Veterinarias, 21: 21-26

In roles to know which are the factors related to the dogs in the streets and as a contribution to designing of sanitary measures for canine population surveillance and controlling, a research was carried out in 34 districts from the Metropolitan Region that conform Santiago city. The sampling unit was the street block and the specific information was obtained through direct observation of 864 city blocks from Santiago, by giving a minimum of 25 city blocks by district, randomly chosen. The street canine population characteristics, the urban structure an the habitat were registered to investigate the relationship among them.

The results show that the amount and types of dogs observed in the streets of Santiago are related to the existence of “shelter like” places and water and food sources in the urban structure of Santiago. The presence of dogs is also related to the garbage location in the street design, because the amount of dogs is significantly smaller if there are storing facilities or baskets in height that prevent the animal access to the garbage.

Tuesday 15 July 2014

Dog scavenging sea-turtle nests

Ruiz‐Izaguirre, E., Woersem, A., Eilers, K., Wieren, S. E., Bosch, G., Zijpp, A. J., & Boer, I. J. M. (2014). Roaming characteristics and feeding practices of village dogs scavenging sea‐turtle nests. Animal Conservation.

Village dogs are reported to prey on sea-turtle nests at various beaches worldwide. Sea-turtle species present in Mexico include six species, which are listed under the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List. It is however not clear why dogs scavenge and how they enter nesting areas; this hinders effective management of dogs at sea-turtle nesting beaches. Hunger, for example, could be a driving factor for village dogs to scavenge sea-turtle nests. The aim of this study was to gain insight into roaming characteristics and feeding practices of dogs scavenging sea-turtle nests. Movements of 19 village dogs (9 nest scavengers and 10 non-nest scavengers) at Colola village and beach (an important nesting ground for the eastern Pacific green turtle: Chelonia mydas) were monitored through radio-tracking and direct observations. A prerequisite for nest scavenging is traveling to the beach. We computed ‘distance from home to beach’ and ‘the activity range’ of nest scavengers and non-nest scavengers. Furthermore, the dogs' owners were interviewed regarding feeding practices. Nest scavengers had a lower metabolic energy intake of their daily food corn tortillas (296 kJ kg−1 BW0.75) than non-nest scavengers (464 kJ kg−1 BW0.75) (two-sample t-test=2.67, P=0.017). Moreover, 39% of owners reported that they provided turtle eggs or egg shells to their dogs at least once. The activity range of nest scavengers was significantly larger than that of non-nest scavengers (F=11.64, P=0.007). Dogs were generally found at the beach at night (42%) and dawn (34%). Our findings have implications for the management of dogs at sea-turtle nesting beaches. We recommend that dogs' movements should be restricted between night (09:00 pm) and dawn (06:00 am) and that sufficient and adequate feeding of dogs should be promoted among dog owners.

Monday 14 July 2014

Perception of village dogs by villagers and tourists

Ruiz-Izaguirre, E., & Eilers, C. H. A. M. (2012). Perceptions of village dogs by villagers and tourists in the coastal region of rural Oaxaca, Mexico. Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People & Animals, 25(1), 75-91.

The objective of this study was to gain an understanding of the village dog-keeping system, and of perceptions of dog-related problems by villagers and tourists, in the coastal region of Oaxaca, Mexico. We conducted a survey of the inhabitants of three villages (Mazunte, Puerto Angel, and Río Seco), whose main economic activities were tourism, fishing, and farming (n = 99), and a survey of tourists (n = 151). Dogs were the most commonly kept animals in all the villages. Cultural and economic aspects were reflected in dog-keeping practices. All dog owners allowed their dog(s) to roam free in the farming village (Río Seco), but not in the tourist villages (Mazunte and Puerto Angel). Significantly more dog owners in the tourist village of Mazunte mentioned companionship as a reason for keeping dogs than those in the farming village. All villagers perceived as a problem that there were too many dogs. The mean number of dogs per household was 1.8, and there were significantly more male dogs in the farming village than in the tourist villages. Efforts to control the dog population in the rural coastal region are aimed at rabies prevention or wildlife protection, whereas this study revealed that these issues were far less often mentioned by local people as other dog-related problems. Significantly more villagers in the tourist villages perceived there to be dog-welfare problems than those in the farming village. Significantly more North American and European tourists were concerned about dog welfare than Mexican tourists. Despite significant differences in dog-keeping between the tourist and farming villages, opinions of villagers in regard to dog breeding and methods of dog population control were similar. Villagers agreed on dog sterilization to control the dog population, but also considered that female dogs should breed at least once in their lifetime. Those living in tourist villages could benefit from improving dog welfare and implementing strategies to lessen the problems dogs cause tourists.

Sunday 13 July 2014

Review of domestic dogs in parks

Weston, M. A., Fitzsimons, J. A., Wescott, G., Miller, K. K., Ekanayake, K. B., & Schneider, T. (2014). Bark in the Park: A Review of Domestic Dogs in Parks. Environmental Management, 1-10.

The presence of domestic dogs Canis familiaris in public open spaces is increasingly controversial. In our review of the literature, we located 133 publications of various types (papers, reports etc.) that examine some aspect of dogs in parks and open spaces (50 % focussed solely on dogs). There has been an exponential growth in the cumulative number of articles (R 2 = 0.96; 82 % published since 1997); almost all pertain to temperate latitudes (97 %) and most to the northern hemisphere (62 %). Most articles focus on impacts on wildlife (51 %), zoonotic diseases (17 %), and people’s perceptions regarding dogs (12 %). Articles mostly describe problems associated with dogs, while reports of low compliance with dog regulations are common. We outline six major findings regarding dogs in parks: (1) there is a paucity of information on dogs in parks, particularly in relation to their interactions with wildlife and regarding their management; (2) published studies are mainly restricted to a handful of locations in developed countries; (3) sectors of societies hold different views over the desirability of dogs in parks; (4) the benefits and risks of dogs to humans and park values are poorly documented and known; (5) dogs represent a notable disease risk in some but not all countries; and (6) coastal parks are over-represented in the literature in terms of potential negative impacts. Park managers globally require better information to achieve conservation outcomes from dog management in parks.

Saturday 12 July 2014

First trials of oral vaccination against rabies in Morocco

Darkaoui, S., Boué, F., Demerson, J. M., Fassi Fihri, O., Yahia, K. I. S., & Cliquet, F. (2014). First trials of oral vaccination with rabies SAG2 dog baits in Morocco. Clinical and Experimental Vaccine Research, 3(2), 220-226.


Canine rabies is a serious health problem in Morocco and about 22 human deaths are reported yearly. Following the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations, Moroccan authorities evaluated oral rabies vaccine baits specially designed for dogs.

Materials and Methods

The study was performed in Tiflet area. The vaccine strain was SAG2, a modified live oral rabies vaccine strain. Each bait contained an aluminium/PVC capsule filled with a liquid. Two kinds of baits were used: placebo baits containing methylene blue as a topical marker and vaccine baits containing vaccine suspension. The study was performed according to recommended WHO strategies, i.e., door to door model (DDDM), hand-out and wildlife immunization model (WIM). The DDDM was performed in the rural area of Tiflet on 60 owned dogs. The hand-out strategy was tested on 15 stray dogs. The WIM was performed on 4 transects lines near Tiflet slaughterhouse and near the weekly traditional market location.


Using the DDDM, 100% of owned dogs were attracted by the baits and 77% ate the bait. Using the hand-out model, 100% of dogs showed interest in baits and 46.7% took the baits. Using the WIM in stray dogs, up to 73% of baits disappeared and 68% of the capsules containing the SAG2 vaccine were found pierced, depending on the sites of distribution.


This pilot study showed that baits have a good palatability and that oral vaccination of both owned and stray dogs is feasible with baits specifically developed for dogs and with adapted strategy of distribution.

Friday 11 July 2014

Dog meat and rabies

Ajoke, E., Solomon, A., & Ikhide, E. (2014). The role of dog trading and slaughter for meat in rabies epidemiology with special reference to Nigeria-a review. Journal of Experimental Biology and Agricultural Sciences, 2(2), 130-136.

The aim of this review was to define the risk factors associated with dog trading and slaughtering for food in the transmission of rabies to human health in Nigeria. The review also examined the factors that increase the risk of transmission of the rabies virus and epidemiology in humans and preventive measures that may be taken. Emphasis was also laid on the potential role that the butchers play in rabies transmission and their susceptibility to rabies through contact with infectious meat samples and materials. Dog meat is gradually becoming a delicacy in many parts of Nigeria. It is eaten for various reasons including medicinal values, source of protein and ritual rites. Stray and apparently healthy dogs are transported together to the slaughter-houses for processing. Rabies virus have been confirmed in apparently, healthy dogs to be slaughtered showing that butchers are at risk, especially in Nigeria, where the butchers neither wear protective gears nor vaccinated against rabies. It is recommended that regular and mass vaccination of butchers and dogs should be carried out to ensure effective control and eradication of rabies. In conclusion, dog trading, slaughtering and consumption might play a major role in the epidemiology of rabies from dogs to humans in Nigeria.

Thursday 10 July 2014

Individual cat's scat detection probability

Forin-Wiart, M. A., Gotteland, C., Gilot-Fromont, E., & Poulle, M. L. (2014). Assessing the homogeneity of individual scat detection probability using the bait-marking method on a monitored free-ranging carnivore population. European Journal of Wildlife Research, 1-8.

Estimates of terrestrial carnivore populations are often based on information derived from scat collected during trail-based sampling. However, few attempts have been made to verify the homogeneity of individual scat detection probability because wild carnivore species seldom afford this opportunity. The present study aims to test this assumption on a free-ranging population of domestic cats (Felis silvestris catus), as this carnivore has ranging behaviours close enough to its wild ancestor to provide useful information for wild carnivore surveys. The homogeneity of scat detection probability was investigated using the bait-marking method on a previously monitored population of 142 individuals, composed of free-roaming house cats (43 %) and farm cats (57 %). An 11-km trail was walked twice a week over a 58-day period to individually feed cats with marked baits and to collect their faeces. From the 8,236 faeces expected to be dropped by cats over that period, less than 2 % were collected, and from the 215 baits distributed to 44 cats (31 % of the population), only 13.5 % of the expected marked faeces were found. Detectability of faeces producers did not differ between free-roaming house cats and farm cats, but faeces detection probability was linked with sex and reproductive status. This study, conducted on a monitored population of free-roaming carnivores, stresses that it is possible to make only cautious conclusions about population estimates supported by trail-based scat samplings, since only a few individuals may be responsible for many scat detections.

Wednesday 9 July 2014

Scavenging by Wild Dogs, Red Foxes and Feral Cats in South-Eastern Australia

Forsyth, D. M., Woodford, L., Moloney, P. D., Hampton, J. O., Woolnough, A. P., & Tucker, M. (2014). How Does a Carnivore Guild Utilise a Substantial but Unpredictable Anthropogenic Food Source? Scavenging on Hunter-Shot Ungulate Carcasses by Wild Dogs/Dingoes, Red Foxes and Feral Cats in South-Eastern Australia Revealed by Camera Traps. PloS one, 9(6), e97937.

There is much interest in understanding how anthropogenic food resources subsidise carnivore populations. Carcasses of hunter-shot ungulates are a potentially substantial food source for mammalian carnivores. The sambar deer (Rusa unicolor) is a large (≥150 kg) exotic ungulate that can be hunted throughout the year in south-eastern Australia, and hunters are not required to remove or bury carcasses. We investigated how wild dogs/dingoes and their hybrids (Canis lupus familiaris/dingo), red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and feral cats (Felis catus) utilised sambar deer carcasses during the peak hunting seasons (i.e. winter and spring). We placed carcasses at 1-km intervals along each of six transects that extended 4-km into forest from farm boundaries. Visits to carcasses were monitored using camera traps, and the rate of change in edible biomass estimated at ~14-day intervals. Wild dogs and foxes fed on 70% and 60% of 30 carcasses, respectively, but feral cats seldom (10%) fed on carcasses. Spatial and temporal patterns of visits to carcasses were consistent with the hypothesis that foxes avoid wild dogs. Wild dog activity peaked at carcasses 2 and 3 km from farms, a likely legacy of wild dog control, whereas fox activity peaked at carcasses 0 and 4 km from farms. Wild dog activity peaked at dawn and dusk, whereas nearly all fox activity occurred after dusk and before dawn. Neither wild dogs nor foxes remained at carcasses for long periods and the amount of feeding activity by either species was a less important predictor of the loss of edible biomass than season. Reasons for the low impacts of wild dogs and foxes on sambar deer carcass biomass include the spatially and temporally unpredictable distribution of carcasses in the landscape, the rapid rate of edible biomass decomposition in warm periods, low wild dog densities and the availability of alternative food resources.

Tuesday 8 July 2014

Eliminating Rabies in Tanzania?

Bardosh, K., Sambo, M., Sikana, L., Hampson, K., & Welburn, S. C. (2014). Eliminating Rabies in Tanzania? Local Understandings and Responses to Mass Dog Vaccination in Kilombero and Ulanga Districts. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 8(6), e2935.


With increased global attention to neglected diseases, there has been a resurgence of interest in eliminating rabies from developing countries through mass dog vaccination. Tanzania recently embarked on an ambitious programme to repeatedly vaccinate dogs in 28 districts. To understand community perceptions and responses to this programme, we conducted an anthropological study exploring the relationships between dogs, society, geography and project implementation in the districts of Kilombero and Ulanga, Southern Tanzania.

Methodology/Principal Findings

Over three months in 2012, we combined the use of focus groups, semi-structured interviews, a household questionnaire and a population-based survey. Willingness to participate in vaccination was mediated by fear of rabies, high medical treatment costs and the threat of dog culling, as well as broader notions of social responsibility. However, differences between town, rural and (agro-) pastoralist populations in livelihood patterns and dog ownership impacted coverage in ways that were not well incorporated into project planning. Coverage in six selected villages was estimated at 25%, well below official estimates. A variety of problems with campaign mobilisation, timing, the location of central points, equipment and staff, and project organisation created barriers to community compliance. Resource-limitations and institutional norms limited the ability for district staff to adapt implementation strategies.

Conclusions and Significance

In the shadows of resource and institutional limitations in the veterinary sector in Africa, top-down interventions for neglected zoonotic diseases likes rabies need to more explicitly engage with project organisation, capacity and community participation. Greater attention to navigating local realities in planning and implementation is essential to ensuring that rabies, and other neglected diseases, are controlled sustainably.

Author Summary

Mass vaccination of dogs is the most effective strategy to eliminate dog-mediated human rabies from developing countries. In 2009, a large-scale elimination demonstration project was funded and coordinated by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in three southern countries, including the United Republic of Tanzania. This paper explores community perceptions and responses to this programme in the districts of Kilombero and Ulanga, Southern Tanzania. The study was based on focus groups and interviews in 16 villages as well as a household questionnaire (n = 113), a population-based survey (n = 6,157 households) and key informant interviews (n = 24). The study showed that fear of rabies, the threat of dog culling and broader ideas of community responsibility drove compliance. However differences in local livelihoods shaped dog ownership patterns and the distribution of dogs in ways that were not explicitly addressed by project strategies. A survey in six villages found that only 25% of dogs had been vaccinated in 2011. We discuss the operational constraints and problems that lowered coverage as viewed by different actors at the district and village-level. A more explicit engagement with project organisation, capacity and community involvement are needed to address this low coverage.

Monday 7 July 2014

Anti-cat behaviour in island reptiles

Li, B., Belasen, A., Pafilis, P., Bednekoff, P., & Foufopoulos, J. (2014). Effects of feral cats on the evolution of anti-predator behaviours in island reptiles: insights from an ancient introduction. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 281(1788), 20140339.

Exotic predators have driven the extinction of many island species. We examined impacts of feral cats on the abundance and anti-predator behaviours of Aegean wall lizards in the Cyclades (Greece), where cats were introduced thousands of years ago. We compared populations with high and low cat density on Naxos Island and populations on surrounding islets with no cats. Cats reduced wall lizard populations by half. Lizards facing greater risk from cats stayed closer to refuges, were more likely to shed their tails in a standardized assay, and fled at greater distances when approached by either a person in the field or a mounted cat decoy in the laboratory. All populations showed phenotypic plasticity in flight initiation distance, suggesting that this feature is ancient and could have helped wall lizards survive the initial introduction of cats to the region. Lizards from islets sought shelter less frequently and often initially approached the cat decoy. These differences reflect changes since islet isolation and could render islet lizards strongly susceptible to cat predation.

‘Community cats' are a community hazard

Sunday 6 July 2014

Variation of cats under domestication

Kurushima, J. D., Lipinski, M. J., Gandolfi, B., Froenicke, L., Grahn, J. C., Grahn, R. A., & Lyons, L. A. (2013). Variation of cats under domestication: genetic assignment of domestic cats to breeds and worldwide random‐bred populations. Animal genetics, 44(3), 311-324.

Both cat breeders and the lay public have interests in the origins of their pets, not only in the genetic identity of the purebred individuals, but also the historical origins of common household cats. 
The cat fancy is a relatively new institution with over 85% of its 40–50 breeds arising only in the past 75 years, primarily through selection on single-gene aesthetic traits. The short, yet intense cat breed history poses a significant challenge to the development of a genetic marker-based breed identification strategy. Using different breed assignment strategies and methods, 477 cats representing 29 fancy breeds were analysed with 38 short tandem repeats, 148 intergenic and five phenotypic single nucleotide polymorphisms. Results suggest the frequentist method of Paetkau (accuracy single nucleotide polymorphisms = 0.78, short tandem repeats = 0.88) surpasses the Bayesian method of Rannala and Mountain (single nucleotide polymorphisms = 0.56, short tandem repeats = 0.83) for accurate assignment of individuals to the correct breed. Additionally, a post-assignment verification step with the five phenotypic single nucleotide polymorphisms accurately identified between 0.31 and 0.58 of the mis-assigned individuals raising the sensitivity of assignment with the frequentist method to 0.89 and 0.92 single nucleotide polymorphisms and short tandem repeats respectively. This study provides a novel multi-step assignment strategy and suggests that, despite their short breed history and breed family groupings, a majority of cats can be assigned to their proper breed or population of origin, i.e. race.

The ascent of cats

Lipinski, M. J., Froenicke, L., Baysac, K. C., Billings, N. C., Leutenegger, C. M., Levy, A. M., Longerid, M., Niinie, T., Ozpinarf, H., Slaterg, M.R., Pedersen, N.C. & Lyons, L. A. (2008). The ascent of cat breeds: genetic evaluations of breeds and worldwide random-bred populations. Genomics, 91(1), 12-21.

The diaspora of the modern cat was traced with microsatellite markers from the presumed site of domestication to distant regions of the world. Genetic data were derived from over 1100 individuals, representing 17 random-bred populations from five continents and 22 breeds.
The Mediterranean was reconfirmed to be the probable site of domestication. Genetic diversity has remained broad throughout the world, with distinct genetic clustering in the Mediterranean basin, Europe/America, Asia and Africa. However, Asian cats appeared to have separated early and expanded in relative isolation. Most breeds were derived from indigenous cats of their purported regions of origin. However, the Persian and Japanese bobtail were more aligned with European/American than with Mediterranean basin or Asian clusters. Three recently derived breeds were not distinct from their parental breeds of origin. Pure breeding was associated with a loss of genetic diversity; however, this loss did not correlate with breed popularity or age.

Saturday 5 July 2014

Virosis in wolf populations related to free-ranging dogs

Molnar, B., Duchamp, C., Möstl, K., Diehl, P. A., & Betschart, B. (2014). Comparative survey of canine parvovirus, canine distemper virus and canine enteric coronavirus infection in free-ranging wolves of central Italy and south-eastern France. European Journal of Wildlife Research, 1-12.

Diseases likely affect large carnivore demography and can hinder conservation efforts. We considered three highly contagious viruses that infect a wide range of domestic and wild mammals: canine parvovirus type 2 (CPV-2), canine distemper virus (CDV) and canine enteric coronaviruses (CECoV). Infection by either one of these viruses can affect populations through increased mortality and/or decreased general health. We investigated infection in the wolf populations of Abruzzo, Lazio e Molise National Park (PNALM), Italy, and of Mercantour National Park (PNM), France. Faecal samples were collected during one winter, from October to March, from four packs in PNALM (n = 79) and from four packs in PNM (n = 66). We screened samples for specific sequences of viral nucleic acids. To our knowledge, our study is the first documented report of CECoV infection in wolves outside Alaska, and of the large-scale occurrence of CPV-2 in European wolf populations. The results suggest that CPV-2 is enzootic in the population of PNALM, but not in PNM and that CECoV is episodic in both areas. We did not detect CDV. Our findings suggest that density and spatial distribution of susceptible hosts, in particular free-ranging dogs, can be important factors influencing infections in wolves. This comparative study is an important step in evaluating the nature of possible disease threats in the studied wolf populations. Recent emergence of new viral strains in Europe additionally strengthens the need for proactive monitoring of wolves and other susceptible sympatric species for viral threats and other impairing infections.

Friday 4 July 2014

Are dogs less likely to become truly feral?

Dogs were domesticated in Middle East (vonHoldt et al., 2010) and relationship with South-East Europe wolves has also been proven (Verginelli et al., 2005). In the early times, dogs were likely employed as food (Vigne & Guilaine, 2004), in addition to work and other uses. Interbreeding with local wolves occured in specific dog lineages (vonHoldt et al., 2010) but also modified local wolf genetic pools (Anderson et al., 2009).

Dogs, like cats, probably initiated a process of self-domestication selecting fearless traits in order to favour scavenging (Driscoll et al. 2009). Among the selected traits is, for instance, starch-tolerance (Axelsson et al. 2013).

Reponen et al. (2013) state that few dog populations are truly feral. Following these authors, the only "Western breed" feral dog population occurred in Galápagos. Dingos were introduced in Australia from a small number of individuals (Savolainen et al., 2004) more than 3,500 years B.P. (Oskarsson et al., 2012) and they would be a more primitive breed that had not suffered strong traits selection for specific tasks. Thus, some authors, like Boltani& Ciucci (1995) state that feral dog populations are not self sustainable, having strong juvenile mortality rates compared to wolves.

Although social behaviour of feral dogs could be similar to that of wolves (Cafazzo et al. 2010), there are substantial differences. Free ranging dogs could have several types of mating (monogamy, polygyny, promiscuity, polyandry, opportunity and rape) (Pal, 2011) while in wolf packs alpha male and female are the only breeding individuals (Mech, 1999). This is one of the reasons that probably lead to the smaller link between dogs and their offspring, as they don't usually bring food and act mostly as guard (Pal, 2005). Nevertheless, during their oestrous period bitches clearly searched for the proximity of high-ranking males who displayed affiliative behaviour towards them, while they were more likely to reject the males who intimidated them, and males also seem to prefere dominant females (Cafazzo et al., 2014).
Dogs are also worse imitators of conspecific than wolves (Range & Virányi, 2014). Those differences probably are substantial to domestication process and also complicate the capacity of dogs to become truly independent of humans.

Bottom-up and top-down processes interact to modify intraguild interactions in resource-pulse environments

Greenville, A. C., Wardle, G. M., Tamayo, B., & Dickman, C. R. (2014). Bottom-up and top-down processes interact to modify intraguild interactions in resource-pulse environments. Oecologia, 1-10.

Top predators are declining globally, in turn allowing populations of smaller predators, or mesopredators, to increase and potentially have negative effects on biodiversity. However, detection of interactions among sympatric predators can be complicated by fluctuations in the background availability of resources in the environment, which may modify both the numbers of predators and the strengths of their interactions. Here, we first present a conceptual framework that predicts how top-down and bottom-up interactions may regulate sympatric predator populations in environments that experience resource pulses. We then test it using 2 years of remote-camera trapping data to uncover spatial and temporal interactions between a top predator, the dingo Canis dingo, and the mesopredatory European red fox Vulpes vulpes and feral cat Felis catus, during population booms, declines and busts in numbers of their prey in a model desert system. We found that dingoes predictably suppress abundances of the mesopredators and that the effects are strongest during declines and busts in prey numbers. Given that resource pulses are usually driven by large yet infrequent rains, we conclude that top predators like the dingo provide net benefits to prey populations by suppressing mesopredators during prolonged bust periods when prey populations are low and potentially vulnerable.

Mating behaviour in a pack of free ranging dogs

Cafazzo, S., Bonanni, R., Valsecchi, P., & Natoli, E. (2014). Social variables affecting mate preferences, copulation and reproductive outcome in a pack of free-ranging dogs. PloS one, 9(6), e98594.

Mating and reproductive outcome is often determined by the simultaneous operation of different mechanisms like intra-sexual competition, mating preferences and sexual coercion. The present study investigated how social variables affected mating outcome in a pack of free-ranging dogs, a species supposed to have lost most features of the social system of wolves during domestication. We found that, although the pack comprised multiple breeding individuals, both male copulation success and female reproductive success were positively influenced by a linear combination of dominance rank, age and leadership. Our results also suggest that mate preferences affect mating outcome by reinforcing the success of most dominant individuals. In particular, during their oestrous period bitches clearly searched for the proximity of high-ranking males who displayed affiliative behaviour towards them, while they were more likely to reject the males who intimidated them. At the same time, male courting effort and male-male competition for receptive females appeared to be stronger in the presence of higher-ranking females, suggesting a male preference for dominant females. To our knowledge, these results provide the first clear evidence of social regulation of reproductive activities in domestic dogs, and suggest that some common organizing mechanisms may contribute to shape the social organization of both dogs and wolves.

Thursday 3 July 2014

Domestic cats outcompete endemic endangered Iriomote cat

Watanabe, S., Nakanishi, N., & Izawa, M. (2003). Habitat and prey resource overlap between the Iriomote cat Prionailurus iriomotensis and introduced feral cat Felis catus based on assessment of scat content and distribution. Mammal Study, 28(1), 47-56.

The Iriomote cat Prionailurus iriomotensis occurs only on Iriomote Island in the Ryukyu Archipelago of southern Japan. The population is estimated at 100 individuals and is on the decline. We examined resource overlap for prey and habitat between this species and introduced cats Felis catus by scat census and analysis of scat contents. The distribution of scats was completely different between the two species. The distribution of scats from Iriomote cats was associated with environmental factors such as vegetation types and terrain conditions, while the distribution of scats from feral cats mainly depended on locations of garbage dumps. Although the feral cat heavily utilized human rubbish, it also preyed upon thirteen species of native animals, ten of which were also used by Iriomote cats. From 1997 to 2001, the number of observed scats from Iriomote cats declined significantly, while feral cat scat became more common. Feral cats on Iriomote Island still depend on humans, but the expansion of their distribution into habitats of Iriomote cats may increase the competition for prey and habitat resources in the future.

Wednesday 2 July 2014

3/4 spp of endemics on Amami preyed by feral dogs and cats

Okubo, C., Hirao, S., & Ishikawa, M. 2014. Quantifying predation by feral cats and dogs on threatened native mammals on Amami island, Japan. Singapore International Science Challenge Proceedings 2013

Amami Island, part of the Ryukyu Archipelago in Japan, is known for high levels of diversity and endemism. However, many species are now globally threatened with extinction, especially due to predation by feral animals. We surveyed prey species based on analysis of fecal samples of feral cats and dogs and present evidence that 74.3% of endemic species are being preyed upon. We investigated eating habits of feral cats and dogs in Amami Island by directly analyzing their droppings. Identification of prey animals was based on fur and bone fragments in droppings confirmed that many threatened species are consumed not only by feral dogs but also cats. Our study shows that the introduced animals are likely to adversely affect Amami’s terrestrial ecosystems.

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