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 22 September 2014

Tibble and the wren

One of the most frequently told stories about invasive species on islands or on the effect of cats on biodiversity is the tale of Tibble and Stephens Island Wren.

Extinct bird Xenicus lyalli (Xenicidae), male (lower) & female (upper).
From Buller, Walter Lawry, A History of the Birds of New Zealand.
Supplementary Notes to the 'Birds of New Zealand'. Vol. II.. 1905.
In a few words and following a common version, Tibble was the cat and only companion of the light-house keeper on Stephens Island and it's supposed to be the sole responsible of the extinction of the one flightless passerine, the local endemic Xenicus (Traversia) lyalli in 1894.
The story is easy to tell and remember: a villain, a victim and a moral (no hero, this time), but, in fact, as usual, reality is a bit more complex.

First, this is not the only known flightless passerine, but they were few of them, maybe just four (all of them extinct and all except one were New Zealand's wrens). This is the only that was still extant when known for science.

Second, the species was not endemic from Stephens Island, as the English name suggests, but relict to the island where it survives in recent times, although it is common in fossil deposits from both of the main islands before the arrival of maoris with kiores  (Worthy and Holdaway 1994).

Third, Lyall was not the light only human inhabitant of the island, neither the lighthouse keeper. He was the assistant and there were other people living there.

Fourth, and most important: how many "tibbles" where there? The first record of a single cat being responsible of the extinction is due, apparently, to Rothschild (1905). 
Image from
After Galbreath and Brown (2004), the Stephens Island wren Xenicus (Traversia) lyalli is widely quoted as having been discovered and promptly exterminated from its only locality, Stephens Island, New Zealand, by a single lighthouse keeper’s cat. Examination of archival and museum records indicates that this account is oversimplified, and throws more light on the roles of the lighthouse keeper David Lyall, the dealer Henry Travers, and the ornithologists Sir Walter Buller and Walter Rothschild. Cat predation probably was the main factor in the wren’s extinction, but not necessarily by a single cat: cats became established on Stephens Island in 1894, increased rapidly and exterminated several other species before they were eliminated. We are not sure if  "Tibble" was the name of any of them.

Fifth, the species didn't disappeared in 1884. following the same authors, extinction of the wren was more extended than generally stated: 10 specimens were evidently brought in by a cat in 1894, but another two-four were obtained in 1895, and two-three more after that and possibly as late as 1899. Fifteen of these specimens are still held in museums. 

Last, but not least, the simplified story forgets some other victims because cats were responsible for several more extinctions on Stephens island. Medway (2004) explains how Stephens Island provides the classic example in the New Zealand region of the effect that predation by feral cats (Felis catus) can have on an island land bird fauna. Twenty-five species of native New Zealand land birds were recorded on the island in the early 1890s when it was still forested and free of mammalian predators. It is probable that Stephens Island still had its original land bird fauna at that time. The land bird species included large populations of the extinct Stephens Island piopio (Turnagra capensis minor), and the endangered South Island saddleback (Philesturnus c. carunculatus).
Cats were introduced to Stephens Island probably in 1894. They soon became feral and multiplied rapidly. The evidence indicates that cats were responsible for the rapid demise of the native land bird fauna of the island.


Sunday 21 September 2014

Discovering geographic information for exploratory spatial analysis of stray cats

Aguilar, G. D., & Farnworth, M. J. (2012). Stray cats in Auckland, New Zealand: Discovering geographic information for exploratory spatial analysis. Applied Geography, 34, 230-238.

Stray cats are a common feature of urban landscapes and are associated with issues of animal welfare and negative environmental impacts. Management, planning and decision-making require readily accessible information on stray cats. However, much of the existing data is not immediately useful for a geographic information system (GIS) in terms of format, content and explicit location information. Spreadsheets we obtained from a single large shelter in the Auckland region. They contained records of stray cat pickups and admissions for an entire year (n = 8573) of which 56.4% (n = 4834) contained data that could be processed to derive relevant spatial information. The resulting data consisted of identified roads and areas of Auckland where the stray cats were found. Published census databases and shapefiles were matched with the data to build a GIS of stray cats. Global and local regression analysis was employed to discover spatial distribution characteristics including the identification of areas with relatively high and low concentrations of stray cats and to explore relationships between socioeconomic condition and stray cat density. Significant clustering is more evident in South Auckland than elsewhere in the region. Specific geographical information is valuable, not only for understanding population dynamics of stray cats, but also to allow spatial and temporal targeting of resources to minimise their impact and promote responsible ownership.


► Spreadsheets containing records of stray cat observations for an entire year in the Auckland area were processed to derive relevant spatial information. ► Data were matched with existing official census databases and shapefiles of the Auckland region to build a GIS of stray cats. ► Spatial characterization results include identification of areas with relatively high and low concentrations of stray cats. ► Insights on the relationship between stray cat density and social factors was derived.

Saturday 20 September 2014

Genetic structure of the feral cat on a sub-Antarctic island

Pontier, D., Say, L., Devillard, S., & Bonhomme, F. (2005). Genetic structure of the feral cat (Felis catus L.) introduced 50 years ago to a sub-Antarctic island. Polar Biology, 28(4), 268-275.

Information about the invasion dynamics and demographic status of invasive species is essential to choose the optimal control options of population numbers. While long-term direct demographic and historical records are generally lacking, the analysis of the genetic variability of a current population might supply information about past and current demographic processes. In this study, we analysed the genetic variability of the cat population living on the main island of the Kerguelen archipelago. Genetic diversity was consistent with the introduction of a very small number of individuals followed by a demographic explosion of the cat population. Significant genetic structure among sites (Fst=0.06 ±0.005) and absence of isolation by distance could indicate that the initial phase of fast colonisation is now over. Estimates of individual relatedness indicated a significant kin structure. Overall data suggested that the cat population of the main island has probably reached carrying capacity.

Cat population density in a sub-Antarctic island

Say, L., Gaillard, J. M., & Pontier, D. (2002). Spatio-temporal variation in cat population density in a sub-Antarctic environment. Polar Biology, 25(2), 90-95.

We used the walked-line transect method for estimating the density of cats and coefficients of variation of density estimates in 4 contrasted sites on the main island of Îles Kerguelen between 1998 and 2000. Density estimates varied from 0.44±0.15 cats per km2 to 2.42±0.23 cats per km2  according to site and period. Coefficient of variation of density estimates ranged from 11.92% to 34.76%. The line transect method was, therefore, an efficient method for monitoring the density of the cat population in a sub-Antarctic environment characterised by short vegetation. Our results suggest that cat population size at the main island of Îles Kerguelen (the total number of cats expected is around 7,000) is much lower than previously thought.

Parasites in insular and mainland populations of feral cats

Fromont, E., Morvilliers, L., Artois, M., & Pontier, D. (2001). Parasite richness and abundance in insular and mainland feral cats: insularity or density?.Parasitology, 123(02), 143-151.

Hosts living on islands carry few parasite species, and the prevalence and intensity of directly transmitted parasites are often higher in insular than in mainland populations. However, it is unclear whether density or other features of insular populations can be responsible for the pattern observed. We compared the parasite richness, prevalence and intensity of parasites between 2 feral populations of cats living either at low density on an island (Kerguelen) or at high density on the mainland (Lyon). Parasite richness was higher in Lyon than in Kerguelen, where only Toxocara cati was found. T. cati egg prevalence was higher in Kerguelen (71·1%) than in Lyon (58·0%). Because cat density cannot explain this pattern, we propose that the low number of parasite species, the diet and/or immunity of cats act to increase prevalence in Kerguelen. Moreover, prevalence, intensity and variance-to-mean ratio increased with age and body mass in Kerguelen whereas, in Lyon, prevalence decreased with age and body mass. We hypothesize that the pattern of exposure differs between populations, and that density-dependent parasite mortality is lower in Kerguelen than in Lyon. We discuss the consequences concerning the influence of parasites on insular host populations.

Friday 19 September 2014

Effects of feral cats on the evolution of antipredator behavior in the Aegean wall lizard

Li, B. (2012). Effects of feral cats on the evolution of antipredator behaviors in the Aegean wall lizard Podarcis erhardii (Doctoral dissertation, University of Michigan).

Exotic predators such as feral cats (Felis catus), have been the driving force behind the extinction of many endemic species of island mammals, birds and reptiles. Island endemics appear to be exceptionally susceptible to invasive predators because of small population size and frequent lack of anti-predator defenses. The goal of this study was to determine the impacts of feral cats on the island populations of Aegean Wall lizards (Podarcis erhardii, Lacertidae) in relationship to the expression of anti-predator behaviors. I estimated lizard population densities in areas with low cat density sites (LCD) versus high cat density (HCD) sites by conducting 100-m transect along dry-stone walls, on the island of Naxos, as well as on surrounding islets (Cyclades, Greece). Degree of expression of antipredator behaviors was determined by measuring flight initiation distance (FID) and rates of tail autotomy both in the field and in the lab for six populations in HCD, LCD sites and four satellite islets without cat presence. I also staged controlled encounters with mounted cats decoys and quantified escaping responses from lizards from these populations. I found that feral cats had a strong negative effect on lizard population densities. Lizards adapted their antipredator behaviors in response to cat predation by extending their FIDs, increasing their capacity for tail autotomy, and by staying closer to refugia. In laboratory predation simulations, lizards from cat-free islets had significantly shorter FIDs than LCD site lizards and in particular than HCD site lizards. Furthermore, some unique islet behaviors, presumably evolved in response to lack of predators and to ameliorate chronic conditions of food shortage, appear to render islet lizards strongly susceptible to cat predation. These behaviors include rarely utilizing available refugia, and moving towards anything new, including cat decoys. Nonetheless, I found that repeated exposures over three trials led to significant increases in FIDs for all populations, indicating at least some behavioral plasticity. My results suggest that although lizards may adapt their antipredator behaviors to cope with introduced predators, this offers at best only partial protection, so that there remains strong concern about their survival in the face of expanding feral cat populations.

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Tuesday 16 September 2014

Study shows impact of feral cats on lizards in Greek Islands

Feral cats are domestic cats that are living in the wild—reports over the past several years have implicated them in a number of extinctions and declines of other species, particularly birds. Another type of creature impacted by feral cats is lizards—cats are known to kill them whether they eat them or not. In this new study, the research team ventured to the Thera, Kea and Naxos islands in the Cyclades—where cats were introduced by humans approximately 9,500 years ago—to learn more about how the native lizards have adapted to the introduced threat.

Leopards prefer dogs in India

Athreya, V, M. Odden, J.D. C. Linnell, J. Krishnaswamy & K. U. Karanth 2014. A cat among the dogs: leopard Panthera pardus diet in a human-dominated landscape in western Maharashtra, India. Oryx, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0030605314000106 :1-7

Leopard with its dog prey (Photo Gaffar Khan) 
The ecology and predator–prey dynamics of large felids in the tropics have largely been studied in natural systems where wild ungulates constitute the majority of the prey base. However, human-dominated landscapes can be rich in potential prey for large carnivores because of the high density of domestic animals, especially in tropical countries where pastoralism is an important livelihood activity. We report the almost complete dependence of leopards Panthera pardus on domestic animals as prey in the crop lands of Ahmednagar district, Maharashtra, India. From analysis of 85 confirmed leopard scats, 87% of the leopard's prey biomass consisted of domestic animals, with 39% consisting of domestic dogs Canis lupus familiaris alone. The only wild species that occurred in the leopard's diet were rodents, small indian civet Viverricula indica, bonnet macaque Macaca radiata and other primates Semnopithecus spp., mongoose Herpestes spp., and birds. Interviews conducted in 77 households distributed randomly in the study area documented a high density of domestic animals: adult cattle Bos taurus, calves, goats Capra aegagrus, dogs and cats Felis catus occurred at densities of 169, 54, 174, 24 and 61 per km2, respectively. Ivlev's electivity index indicated that dogs and cats were over-represented in the leopard's diet, given the higher densities of goats and cattle. The standing biomass of dogs and cats alone was sufficient to sustain the high density of carnivores at the study site. Our results show that the abundance of potential domestic prey biomass present in human-use areas supports a relatively high density of predators, although this interaction could result in conflict with humans.

Monday 15 September 2014

A review of dog domestication from the Paleolithic to the Iron Age

Horard-Herbin, M-P., A. Tresset & J-D.Vigne. 2014. Domestication and uses of the dog in western Europe from the Paleolithic to the Iron Age. Animal Frontiers, 4 (3) 23-31 doi: 10.2527/af.2014-0018 

This paper reviews the knowledge of the history of the dog in western Europe acquired through archaeozoology.

The first part examines the question of domestication of the wolf during the Upper Paleolithic, by highlighting the sometimes contradictory archeological and genetic findings. It also briefly lays out the different controversies regarding the site or sites of domestication of the dog in the world and the presumed dates of this major phenomenon in human history.

The second part deals with the evolution of canine morphology from the Paleolithic to the Iron Age, integrating, for example, the latest discoveries regarding domestic coat colors in the Mesolithic.

Finally, the presumed and attested uses of dogs throughout European pre- and protohistory are presented, including certain practices that lasted over time.

Two studies on Paleolithic dogs and a controversy

Germonpré, M., Sablin, M. V., Stevens, R. E., Hedges, R. E., Hofreiter, M., Stiller, M., & Després, V. R. (2009). Fossil dogs and wolves from Palaeolithic sites in Belgium, the Ukraine and Russia: osteometry, ancient DNA and stable isotopes. Journal of Archaeological Science, 36(2), 473-490.

Using multivariate techniques, several skulls of fossil large canids from sites in Belgium, Ukraine and Russia were examined to look for possible evidence of the presence of Palaeolithic dogs. Reference groups constituted of prehistoric dogs, and recent wolves and dogs. The fossil large canid from Goyet (Belgium), dated at c. 31,700 BP is clearly different from the recent wolves, resembling most closely the prehistoric dogs. Thus it is identified as a Palaeolithic dog, suggesting that dog domestication had already started during the Aurignacian. The Epigravettian Mezin 5490 (Ukraine) and Mezhirich (Ukraine) skulls are also identified as being Palaeolithic dogs. Selected Belgian specimens were analyzed for mtDNA and stable isotopes. All fossil samples yielded unique DNA sequences, indicating that the ancient Belgian large canids carried a substantial amount of genetic diversity. Furthermore, there is little evidence for phylogeographic structure in the Pleistocene large canids, as they do not form a homogenous genetic group. Although considerable variation occurs in the fossil canid isotope signatures between sites, the Belgian fossil large canids preyed in general on horse and large bovids.
Dorsal view of the skulls from (a) Goyet (dog); (b) Trou Balleux (wolf); (c) Trou des Nutons (wolf),
showing the relative wide braincase of the Goyet dog 

Whether or not the wolf was domesticated during the early Upper Palaeolithic remains a controversial issue. We carried out detailed analyses of the skull material from the Gravettian Předmostí site, Czech Republic, to investigate the issue. Three complete skulls from Předmostí were identified as Palaeolithic dogs, characterized by short skull lengths, short snouts, and wide palates and braincases relative to wolves. One complete skull could be assigned to the group of Pleistocene wolves. Three other skulls could not be assigned to a reference group; these might be remains from hybrids or captive wolves. Modifications by humans of the skull and canine remains from the large canids of Předmostí indicate a specific relationship between humans and large canids.


► Accepting an Aurignacian beginning of the domestication of the wolf is controversial. ►The Gravettian canid skulls from Předmostí were studied to check for the presence of dogs. ►Ancient dogs are characterized by short skulls and snouts, and wide palates and braincases. ►Using these criteria three Předmostí skulls were singled out as Gravettian dogs. ►Human modifications of the skulls hint at a specific human/large canid relationship.

Susan J. Crockford, S.J. & Y.V. KuzminComments on Germonpré et al., Journal of Archaeological Science 36, 2009 “Fossil dogs and wolves from Palaeolithic sites in Belgium, the Ukraine and Russia: osteometry, ancient DNA and stable isotopes”, and Germonpré, Lázkičková-Galetová, and Sablin, Journal of Archaeological Science 39, 2012 “Palaeolithic dog skulls at the Gravettian Předmostí site, the Czech Republic” Journal of Archaeological Science, 39(8):2797–2801. DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2012.04.033

Issues related to the identification of Late Pleistocene dogs from different sites in Eurasia, triggered by recent publications (see Germonpré et al., 2009, 2012; Ovodov et al., 2011), are discussed. The main focus is the problem of how to distinguish wolves from early dogs on the basis of skull and teeth morphology. The studies by 18 and 19, reporting so-called ‘Palaeolithic dogs’ from Předmostí, Goyet, and other sites in Eastern and Central Europe, have some serious deficiencies. In our opinion, more work needs to be done to understand the biological mechanisms involved in wolf domestication and until then, it is premature to classify these Palaeolithic canids as fully domesticated dogs or even incipient dogs.


► We discuss issues related to so-called ‘Palaeolithic dogs’ from sites in Eurasia. ► Our comments pertain to studies described in 18 and 19. ► We suggest it is premature to classify these Palaeolithic canids as fully domesticated dogs.

This is a response to the comments of Crockford and Kuzmin (2012) on our identification of Palaeolithic dogs from different European Palaeolithic sites. In their comments Crockford and Kuzmin (2012) present some errors, misunderstandings and misrepresentations that we remedy here. In our opinion, the early wolf domestication must be regarded as an intimate relationship between humans and canids including the breeding of the latter by prehistoric people, resulting in the European Palaeolithic dogs.


► Accepting an Aurignacian beginning of the domestication of the wolf is controversial. ► Crockford and Kuzmin (2012) conjecture such an early domestication. ► This is a response to the comments of Crockford and Kuzmin (2012) on our identification of European Palaeolithic dogs. ► Two large canid types occur in certain European Palaeolithic sites. ► This is explained by the presence of Palaeolithic dogs and Pleistocene wolves.

see also 

Mitochondrial genomes suggest European origin of dogs

Thalmann, O., B. Shapiro, P. Cui, V. J. Schuenemann, S. K. Sawyer, D. L. Greenfield, M. B. Germonpré, M. V. Sablin, F. López-Giráldez, X. Domingo-Roura, H. Napierala, H-P. Uerpmann, D. M. Loponte, A. A. Acosta, L. Giemsch, R. W. Schmitz, B. Worthington, J. E. Buikstra, A. Druzhkova, A. S. Graphodatsky, N. D. Ovodov, N. Wahlberg, A. H. Freedman, R. M. Schweizer, K.-P. Koepfli, J. A. Leonard, M. Meyer, J. Krause, S. Pääbo, R. E. Green &R. K. Wayne. 2013. Complete Mitochondrial Genomes of Ancient Canids Suggest a European Origin of Domestic Dogs. Science 342 (6160): 871-874 DOI: 10.1126/science.1243650

The geographic and temporal origins of the domestic dog remain controversial, as genetic data suggest a domestication process in East Asia beginning 15,000 years ago, whereas the oldest doglike fossils are found in Europe and Siberia and date to >30,000 years ago. We analyzed the mitochondrial genomes of 18 prehistoric canids from Eurasia and the New World, along with a comprehensive panel of modern dogs and wolves. The mitochondrial genomes of all modern dogs are phylogenetically most closely related to either ancient or modern canids of Europe. Molecular dating suggests an onset of domestication there 18,800 to 32,100 years ago. These findings imply that domestic dogs are the culmination of a process that initiated with European hunter-gatherers and the canids with whom they interacted.

Sunday 14 September 2014

33,000 years old incipient dog from Siberia

Ovodov, N. D., Crockford, S. J., Kuzmin, Y. V., Higham, T. F., Hodgins, G. W., & van der Plicht, J. (2011). A 33,000-year-old incipient dog from the Altai Mountains of Siberia: Evidence of the earliest domestication disrupted by the Last Glacial Maximum. PLoS One, 6(7), e22821.


Virtually all well-documented remains of early domestic dog (Canis familiaris) come from the late Glacial and early Holocene periods (ca. 14,000–9000 calendar years ago, cal BP), with few putative dogs found prior to the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, ca. 26,500–19,000 cal BP). The dearth of pre-LGM dog-like canids and incomplete state of their preservation has until now prevented an understanding of the morphological features of transitional forms between wild wolves and domesticated dogs in temporal perspective.

Methodology/Principal Finding

We describe the well-preserved remains of a dog-like canid from the Razboinichya Cave (Altai Mountains of southern Siberia). Because of the extraordinary preservation of the material, including skull, mandibles (both sides) and teeth, it was possible to conduct a complete morphological description and comparison with representative examples of pre-LGM wild wolves, modern wolves, prehistoric domesticated dogs, and early dog-like canids, using morphological criteria to distinguish between wolves and dogs. It was found that the Razboinichya Cave individual is most similar to fully domesticated dogs from Greenland (about 1000 years old), and unlike ancient and modern wolves, and putative dogs from Eliseevichi I site in central Russia. Direct AMS radiocarbon dating of the skull and mandible of the Razboinichya canid conducted in three independent laboratories resulted in highly compatible ages, with average value of ca. 33,000 cal BP.


The Razboinichya Cave specimen appears to be an incipient dog that did not give rise to late Glacial – early Holocene lineages and probably represents wolf domestication disrupted by the climatic and cultural changes associated with the LGM. The two earliest incipient dogs from Western Europe (Goyet, Belguim) and Siberia (Razboinichya), separated by thousands of kilometers, show that dog domestication was multiregional, and thus had no single place of origin (as some DNA data have suggested) and subsequent spread.

Friday 12 September 2014

Cats among the main causes of bird mortality

Erickson, W. P., Johnson, G. D., & Young Jr, D. P. (2005). A summary and comparison of bird mortality from anthropogenic causes with an emphasis on collisions. USDA Forest Service General Technical Report PSWGTR-191, 1029-1042.

We estimate that from 500 million to possibly over one billion birds are killed annually in the United States due to anthropogenic sources including collisions with human-made structures such as vehicles, buildings and windows, power lines, communication towers and wind turbines; electrocutions; oil spills and other contaminants; pesticides; cat predation; and commercial fishing by-catch. Many of the deaths from these sour- ces would be considered unlawful take under federal laws such as the Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the Bald and Golden Eagle Pro- tection Act. In this paper, we summarize this literature and provide the basis for the mortality projections for many of the apparent significant sources. Most of the mortality projections are based on small sample sizes, and on studies typically lacking adjustments for scav- enging and searcher efficiency biases. Although the estimates for each source often range by an order of magnitude, the cumulative mortality from all these sources continues to be a concern.

Thursday 11 September 2014

Fatal toxoplasmosis in endemic NZ birds

Howe, L., Hunter, S., Burrows, E., & Roe, W. (2013). Four cases of fatal toxoplasmosis in three species of endemic New Zealand birds. Avian Diseases.  58(1): 171-175

Four cases of fatal toxoplasmosis in three endemic avian species are reported. Between 2009 and 2012, two kereru, one North Island brown kiwi, and one North Island kaka were submitted for necropsy examination. On gross post mortem the kiwi had marked hepatosplenomegaly while the kaka and two kereru had swollen, slightly firm deep red lungs. Histologically, there was extensive hepatocellular necrosis in the liver of the kiwi while the kaka and kereru showed severe fibrinous bronchointerstitial pneumonia. In the kiwi, protozoal organisms were present within both hepatocytes and Kupffer cells of the liver and within the epithelial cells and macrophages of the interstitium of the lung in the kaka and two kereru. The diagnosis of toxoplasmosis was confirmed with immunohistochemistry and PCR on the liver and/or lung of paraffin embedded formalin-fixed tissue. Genotyping of up to seven markers revealed an atypical Type II isolate of T. gondii was present in at least three of the cases. This study provides evidence that T. gondii can cause mortality in these endemic species and suggests further research is needed to determine that full extent of morbidity and mortality caused by this parasite in New Zealand's unique avifauna.

Dog meat consumption and rabies in Nigeria

Ekanem, E. E., Eyong, K. I., Philip-Ephraim, E. E., Eyong, M. E., Adams, E. B., & Asindi, A. A. (2014). Stray dog trade fuelled by dog meat consumption as a risk factor for rabies infection in Calabar, southern Nigeria. African Health Sciences, 13(4), 1170-1173.

Background: Rabies is a preventable zoonosis with the highest case fatality of any disease in the world. In the developing world, it is transmitted mainly by dog bites. In parts of southern Nigeria, dog meat is a delicacy.
Objective: To highlight trade in stray dogs as a major risk factor for rabies in animals and humans in south-south Nigeria.
Method: Patients admitted into the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH) with a diagnosis of rabies between July and October 2012 were analysed for risk factors, post exposure prophylaxis (PEP), health seeking behaviour and outcome. Focused group interview were also conducted among traders/ handlers of stray dogs.
Results: Ten cases of rabies in subjects aged 3 to 52 years were recorded in these five months period. Eight of the cases were male and apparently got infected directly or indirectly through the trade in stray dogs for human consumption. None had proper PEP and all patients died.
Conclusion: Stray dog trade, fuelled by eating of dog meat, is a risk factor for human and animal rabies in Calabar, southern Nigeria. Culling of stray dogs, control of stray dogs’ trade and public enlightenment on PEP is recommended.

Odeh, L. E., Umoh, J. U., & Dzikwi, A. A. (2013). Assessment of Risk of Possible Exposure to Rabies among Processors and Consumers of Dog Meat in Zaria and Kafanchan, Kaduna State, Nigeria. Global journal of health science, 6(1), p142.

Canine rabies is endemic in Nigeria. Some of the dogs slaughtered for human consumption may be infected with rabies virus, thus exposing handlers of raw dog meat to the disease since the virus may be present in the nerves in the meat. A cross-sectional study was designed and a structured questionnaire was designed and administered to a convenience sample of 160 processors and consumers (100 from Zaria and 60 from Kafanchan), by face to face interview at the slaughter sites or dog meat sale points. The questionnaire sought information on demographic characteristics of the respondents, rabies knowledge, attitude and actions the respondents would take if exposure occurs. Associations between demographic variables and categorized knowledge, attitude or practice scores were assessed using X2 analysis. The relationship between non-categorized scores was assessed using multiple regression analysis. Also, 154 brain samples from slaughtered dogs (74 from Zaria and 80 from Kafanchan) were checked for rabies antigen using direct fluorescent antibody test. Of the 160 respondents, 49 (30.6%) were involved in the slaughtering and sale of dog meat while 111(69.4%) were involved in handling and consumption of processed dog meat. Only 123(76.9%) knew that dogs are common source of rabies in Nigeria and 105(65.6%) knew that rabies affect humans. Also 110(68.8%) did not have adequate knowledge of the clinical signs of rabies. The level of knowledge, having positive attitudes and knowing acceptable practices were directly proportional to the level of education. Respondents from Kafanchan had higher level of knowledge and more positive attitudes towards rabies than those from Zaria. There were significant correlations between knowledge and attitude scores (r=0.49) and between knowledge and practice scores (r=0.43) at p<0.001. Rabies antigen was detected in the brain of 6 (3.9%) of the slaughtered dogs. The findings indicate that processors and consumers of dog meat are deficient in the knowledge of rabies. There is therefore a need for educational programmes targeted at this high risk group to increase their level of knowledge and reduce the risk of exposure.

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Vagrant dogs the most harmful disturbance to great bustard in central Spain

Sastre, P., Ponce, C., Palacín, C., Martín, C. A., & Alonso, J. C. (2009). Disturbances to great bustards (Otis tarda) in central Spain: human activities, bird responses and management implications. European Journal of Wildlife Research, 55(4), 425-432.

We investigated the effects of human activities on the behaviour of great bustards (Otis tarda) in a Special Protection Area in central Spain. We recorded 532 disturbances, at a rate of 0.93 disturbances per hour, a high value compared to other studies. Escape (flight/running) was observed more often than alert. Flight was more frequent than running. Car traffic and walkers were the main sources of disturbance. Motorcyclists, dogs, helicopters and aeroplanes were also harmful in relation to their abundance and time of permanence. Farming and shepherding produced few disturbances and usually did not cause a flight response. These activities are thus considered compatible with the conservation of the great bustards. Hunting caused an increase in the frequency of disturbance on weekends and holidays with respect to working days. We propose access restrictions to car traffic and helicopters/airplanes and hunting limitations in those areas more frequently used by the species.

Tuesday 9 September 2014

People and dogs disturbing birds on the beach

Lafferty, K. D. (2001). Birds at a Southern California beach: seasonality, habitat use and disturbance by human activity. Biodiversity & Conservation, 10(11), 1949-1962.

Use of a Santa Barbara beach by people and birds varied in both time and space. There were 100 birds, 18 people and 2 dogs per kilometer. Bird density varied primarily with the season and tide while human activity varied most between weekend and weekday. Bird distributions along the beach were determined mainly by habitat type (particularly a lagoon and exposed rocky intertidal areas) For crows and western gulls, there was some evidence that access to urban refuse increased abundance. Interactions between birds and people often caused birds to move or fly away, particularly when people were within 20 m. During a short observation period, 10% of humans and 39% of dogs disturbed birds. More than 70% of birds flew when disturbed. Bird species varied in the frequency that they were disturbed, partially because a few bird species foraged on the upper beach where contact with people was less frequent. Most disturbances occurred low on the beach. Although disturbances caused birds to move away from humans, most displacement was short enough that variation in human activity did not alter large-scale patterns of beach use by the birds. Birds were less reactive to humans (but not dogs) when beach activity was low.

Human and dog disturbance to shorebirds

McCrary, M. D., & Pierson, M. O. (2000). Influence of human activity on shorebird beach use in Ventura County, California. In Proceedings of the fifth California Islands symposium (pp. 424-427).

We studied the potential influence of human and dog activity on shorebird abundance at 13 sandy beaches in Ventura County, California. The 13 study beaches were randomly selected, and each beach was 1 km long. From June 1994 to May 1997, we counted all shorebirds, humans and dogs at each beach once per month for a total of 36 counts. We found no significant relationship between instantaneous counts of either shorebirds and human or dogs. However, there was a significant relationship among the 13 beaches between total shorebird and human use. The beaches with the greatest number of shorebirds (Ormond Beaches 1 through 3) were among those with the lowest number of humans. The results suggest that inaccessibility to humans may be an important aspect of shorebird habitat quality. Relatively undisturbed sandy beaches are quite rare in southern California, and the inaccessibility of the few remaining undisturbed beaches should be maintained. 

Dogs disturbing wintering plovers

Lafferty, K. D. (2001). Disturbance to wintering western snowy plovers.Biological Conservation, 101(3), 315-325.

In order to better understand the nature of disturbances to wintering snowy plovers, I observed snowy plovers and activities that might disturb them at a beach near Devereux Slough in Santa Barbara, California, USA. Disturbance (activity that caused plovers to move or fly) to wintering populations of threatened western snowy plovers was 16 times higher at a public beach than at protected beaches. Wintering plovers reacted to disturbance at half the distance (∼40 m) as has been reported for breeding snowy plovers (∼80 m). Humans, dogs, crows and other birds were the main sources of disturbance on the public beach, and each snowy plover was disturbed, on average, once every 27 weekend min and once every 43 weekday min. Dogs off leash were a disproportionate source of disturbance. Plovers were more likely to fly from dogs, horses and crows than from humans and other shorebirds. Plovers were less abundant near trail heads. Over short time scales, plovers did not acclimate to or successfully find refuge from disturbance. Feeding rates declined with increased human activity. I used data from these observations to parameterize a model that predicted rates of disturbance given various management actions. The model found that prohibiting dogs and a 30 m buffer zone surrounding a 400 m stretch of beach provided the most protection for plovers for the least amount of impact to beach recreation.

Monday 8 September 2014

Dog predation on kiwis

Taborsky, M. (1988). Kiwis and dog predation: observations in Waitangi State Forest. Notornis, 35(3), 197-202.

A wild dog was found to kill 13 out of 23 kiwis marked with transmitters. 
The whole population may have lost 500 out of 900 birds, although this estimate may be conservative. The population will probably need 10-20 years and a rigorous protection scheme to recover to previous densities

Sunday 7 September 2014

Dogs among the main causes of death of blue penguins

Hocken, A.G. (2000) Cause of death in blue penguins (Eudyptula m.minor) in North Otago, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Zoology, 27:4, 305-309, DOI: 10.1080/03014223.2000.9518239

I necropsied 213 blue penguins (Eudyptula m. minor) collected during 1994 to 1998, mainly from Oamaru Harbour and urban areas, the remainder from sites south to Otago Peninsula. The dominant categories were malnutrition (16%), and cause of death (15%). Where malnutrition was involved, it was usually unclear whether it was the direct cause of death or the consequence of undiagnosed natural disease or infestation. Twenty five per cent of birds died from animal attacks. Aspergillosis was the commonest natural disease (3.3%). Endoparasitism was uncommon (1.3%). This study provides significant evidence of geographic variation in infestation of blue penguins.

Saturday 6 September 2014

Cat predation on Middle East wildlife

Brickner-Braun, I., Geffen, E., & Yom-Tov, Y. (2007). The domestic cat as a predator of Israeli wildlife. Israel Journal of Ecology & Evolution, 53(2), 129-142.

Predation of wildlife by domestic cats was studied in Israel. Analysis of stomach contents and data provided by observers revealed that many domestic cats enriched the diet provided by their owners with many species of wild animals, including 12 mammals, 26 birds, 18 reptiles, and one amphibian, and scavenged from garbage. The proportion of manufactured cat food and garbage dump food in the diet of urban cats decreased from 70% of stomach volume among those living in rural settlements to 44% among cats living in open areas, with the rest of the stomach contents consisting of wild animals. Of the wild animals hunted by cats, the most common category was mammals (75% of the stomach volume), followed by amphibians (10%), birds (9%), and reptiles (6%).

Most cats do not wander more than 200 m away from either a food source or cover. Female cats living in (southern) desert settlements do not leave the inhabited area and have very small home ranges, while those living in the Mediterranean region (central and northern) wander outside under the cover of trees and bushes and have significantly larger home ranges. The mean distance traveled daily by females from their center of activity was 51.3 m and 103.4 m for the southern and northern populations, respectively. Males were studied only in the Mediterranean region, and their travel distances were greater than those of females.

Although our results of predation are mainly qualitative, this study supports those done elsewhere in the world where the cat was shown to be a generalist predator whose potential impact on some species, especially endangered ones, may be considerable.

Friday 5 September 2014

Emotional approaches of caretakers of free-roaming cats

Finkler, H., & Terkel, J. (2011). Dichotomy in the emotional approaches of caretakers of free-roaming cats in urban feeding groups: findings from in-depth interviews. Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People & Animals, 24(2), 203-218.

Although the occurrence of cat-caretaking of free-roaming cats is widespread, particularly so in countries with a climate suitable for cats to reproduce year-round, our knowledge of this relationship is still incomplete. People who engage in daily activities of feeding and caring for groups of free-roaming cats (cat caretakers) are known to be devoted to their cats and invest considerable resources in their care, including neutering and veterinary care. These caretakers often encounter difficulties, such as resentment by neighbors and lack of cooperation or financing by the municipal veterinary services. Despite the fundamental understanding of these caretakers' high daily commitment, and sometimes strong bond with the cats, detailed knowledge is still lacking regarding the nature of this bond, the difficulties that ensue from this daily occupation, and the relationship between the two. The purpose of this study was thus to acquire a deeper understanding, by means of an in-depth interview with cat caretakers. The study has identified, for the first time, two distinct emotional approaches that accompany extensive caretaking for free-roaming cats: emotional attachment and emotional detachment. We show how these two different responses affect both social and financial aspects in the caretakers' lives, and report on the ways in which these individuals experience cat caretaking. Our findings provide a first systematic understanding of the relationship between the level of technical caretaking (feeding, medical care, etc.) and the level of emotional involvement, and reveal the ambivalence often inherent in human–animal relations in general and the caretaker–cat bond in particular. The understanding acquired here can be put into practice to reduce the emotional and technical difficulties experienced by cat caretakers, as well as to improve free-roaming cat management efforts and cat welfare. By increasing public and municipal awareness of the possible contribution of cat caretakers to cat management, and of the emotional and technical difficulties they experience, both the caretakers and other community members can benefit.

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Origin of dingoes and Polynesian dogs

Oskarsson, M. C., Klütsch, C. F., Boonyaprakob, U., Wilton, A., Tanabe, Y., & Savolainen, P. (2011). Mitochondrial DNA data indicate an introduction through Mainland Southeast Asia for Australian dingoes and Polynesian domestic dogs. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, rspb20111395.

In the late stages of the global dispersal of dogs, dingoes appear in the Australian archaeological record 3500 years BP, and dogs were one of three domesticates brought with the colonization of Polynesia, but the introduction routes to this region remain unknown. This also relates to questions about human history, such as to what extent the Polynesian culture was introduced with the Austronesian expansion from Taiwan or adopted en route, and whether pre-Neolithic Australia was culturally influenced by the surrounding Neolithic world. We investigate these questions by mapping the distribution of the mtDNA founder haplotypes for dingoes (A29) and ancient Polynesian dogs (Arc1 and Arc2) in samples across Southern East Asia (n = 424) and Island Southeast Asia (n = 219). All three haplotypes were found in South China, Mainland Southeast Asia and Indonesia but absent in Taiwan and the Philippines, and the mtDNA diversity among dingoes indicates an introduction to Australia 4600–18 300 years BP. These results suggest that Australian dingoes and Polynesian dogs originate from dogs introduced to Indonesia via Mainland Southeast Asia before the Neolithic, and not from Taiwan together with the Austronesian expansion. This underscores the complex origins of Polynesian culture and the isolation from Neolithic influence of the pre-Neolithic Australian culture.

Frequency of the Polynesian haplotypes Arc1 and Arc2, and the dingo founder haplotype A29 in geographical regions. The number of individuals carrying each haplotype, total number of samples for the region and frequency (per cent) are shown. Arrows indicate suggested introduction routes. For Australia, A29 denotes both haplotypes A29 and A29′

Savolainen, P., Leitner, T., Wilton, A. N., Matisoo-Smith, E., & Lundeberg, J. (2004). A detailed picture of the origin of the Australian dingo, obtained from the study of mitochondrial DNA. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 101(33), 12387-12390.

To determine the origin and time of arrival to Australia of the dingo, 582 bp of the mtDNA control region were analyzed in 211 Australian dingoes sampled in all states of Australia, 676 dogs from all continents, and 38 Eurasian wolves, and 263 bp were analyzed in 19 pre-European archaeological dog samples from Polynesia. We found that all mtDNA sequences among dingoes were either identical to or differing by a single substitution from a single mtDNA type, A29. This mtDNA type, which was present in >50% of the dingoes, was found also among domestic dogs, but only in dogs from East Asia and Arctic America, whereas 18 of the 19 other types were unique to dingoes. The mean genetic distance to A29 among the dingo mtDNA sequences indicates an origin ≈5,000 years ago. From these results a detailed scenario of the origin and history of the dingo can be derived: dingoes have an origin from domesticated dogs coming from East Asia, possibly in connection with the Austronesian expansion into Island Southeast Asia. They were introduced from a small population of dogs, possibly at a single occasion, and have since lived isolated from other dog populations.

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Multiple kagu deaths caused by dogs

Hunt, G. R., Hay, R., & Veltman, C. J. (1996). Multiple Kagu Rhynochetos jubatus deaths caused by dog attacks at a high-altitude study site on Pic Ningua, New Caledonia. Bird Conservation International, 6(04): 295-306.

Dog predation has been cited as an important factor in the decline of the threatened Kagu of New Caledonia but direct evidence of predation was restricted to single kills. Here we report the first documented case of multiple Kagu deaths caused by dogs, which occurred at our 200 ha, high-altitude (800-1,300 m) study site on Pic Ningua. The deaths were discovered because we were radio-tracking Kagus there as part of our behavioural study on the birds. In 1993 we found 20 Kagus either dead (15) or wounded (5; one survived) from dog attacks in four distinct episodes over a 14-week period from late April to early August. Two other birds whose older remains were found also probably died from dog attacks. Of the 22 birds 18 wore radio transmitters; the four non-radio-tracked birds were found by chance. Dogs errant from a nearby tribal village were strongly implicated in carrying out most, if not all, of the attacks. They climbed around 1,000 m in altitude to reach the study site and attacked birds there on repeat visits to the site. The apparent recent disappearance of Kagus in forest neighbouring the study site suggests the dogs caused the deaths of most of the birds on the peak. Dog predation is probably an ongoing problem for the Kagu and the attacks at Pic Ningua are probably not an isolated incident. Protecting birds outside Riviere Bleue Park from dogs will require: (1) establishment of additional intensively managed reserves; (2) continuing education of the public and administrators about the need for Kagu protection and associated dog control; (3) involvement of tribal communities in Kagu conservation; and (4) enforcement of dog control laws. The events at Pic Ningua demonstrate the necessity for additional and non-connected reserves to safeguard against catastrophes and increase the probability of long-term Kagu persistence in the wild.

Dog among the most abundant mammals in a protected area in S Brazil

PAZIO, D.2014. Survey of terrestrial mammals of medium and large size in recovery areas of Parque Estadual do Lago Azul, Paraná, Brazil. 2013. 37p. Trabalho de Conclusão deCurso (Bacharelado em Engenharia Ambiental) -Coordenação de Engenharia Ambiental, Universidade Tecnológica Federal do Paraná, Câmpus Campo Mourão –PR.
The survey of mammals is important not only for understanding of distribution and autoecology of species, but also as a measure of environmental integrity and as a basis for management actions, especially when it’s occurs in protected areas. This study aimed to survey terrestrial mammal species of medium and large size in recovery areas of Parque Estadual do Lago Azul (PELA), Campo Mourão and Luiziana cities. We employed the following species survey techniques: cameras traps, footprints plots and opportunistic records. Samples were collected monthly during the period January to June 2013, and always occurred in three sampling points. We evaluated the level of vulnerability of species and the occurrence of invasive alien species from consulting of bibliography. We recorded 16 species in 13 families and 6 orders. Five species presented greater constancy of occurrence: three natives (Nasua nasua, Procyon cancrivorus, and Dasypus novemcinctus) and two invasives (Sus scrofa and Canis lupus familiaris). Seven species were considered with some degree of threat (Leopardus pardalis, Chironectes minimus, Cuniculus paca, Tapirus terrestris, Mazama americana, Mazama gouazoubira, and Dasyprocta sp.). The native species recorded in PELA indicate compatibility with regenerating areas. However, the constant record of invasive alien species becomes a concern, requiring that management measures are made.

O inventariamento de mamíferos é importante não apenas para o conhecimento da distribuição e autoecologia das espécies, mas também como medida de integridade ambiental e como subsídio para ações de manejo, principalmente, quando isso ocorre em unidades de conservação. Nesse sentido, este trabalho buscou levantar as espécies de mamíferos terrestres de médio e grande porte em áreas de recuperação do Parque Estadual do Lago Azul (PELA), municípios de Campo Mourão e Luiziana, unidade de conservação de proteção integral. Foram empregadas as seguintes técnicas de levantamento de espécies: armadilhas fotográficas, armadilhas de pegadas e registros oportunísticos. As coletas foram mensais, no período de janeiro a junho de 2013, e ocorreram sempre em três pontos amostrais. A partir do levantamento de espécies foi avaliado o nível de vulnerabilidade das espécies e a ocorrência de espécies exóticas invasoras, a partir do cruzamento com dados da bibliografia. Durante o período de amostragem foram registradas 16 espécies distribuídas em 13 famílias e 6 ordens. Das espécies registradas no PELA as que tiveram maior constância de ocorrência foram cinco, sendo três nativas (Nasua nasua, Procyon cancrivorus e Dasypus novemcinctus) e duas exóticas invasoras (Sus scrofa e o Canis lupus familiaris). Já as espécies consideradas com algum grau de ameaça foram sete (Leopardus pardalis, Chironectes minimus, Cuniculus paca, Tapirus terrestris, Mazama americana, Mazama gouazoubira e Dasyprocta sp). As espécies nativas registradas no PELA indicaram um bom grau de compatibilidade com uma floresta em regeneração. No entanto, o constante registro de espécies exóticas invasoras torna-se uma preocupação, necessitando que medidas de manejo sejam efetuadas.

Monday 1 September 2014

Questioning mesopredator release in Australia

Allen, B. L., Lundie‐Jenkins, G., Burrows, N. D., Engeman, R. M., Fleming, P. J., & Leung, L. K. P. (2014). Does lethal control of top‐predators release mesopredators? A re‐evaluation of three Australian case studies. Ecological Management & Restoration.

Top-predators can sometimes be important for structuring fauna assemblages in terrestrial ecosystems. Through a complex trophic cascade, the lethal control of top-predators has been predicted to elicit positive population responses from mesopredators that may in turn increase predation pressure on prey species of concern. In support of this hypothesis, many relevant research papers, opinion pieces and literature reviews identify three particular case studies as supporting evidence for top-predator control-induced release of mesopredators in Australia. However, many fundamental details essential for supporting this hypothesis are missing from these case studies, which were each designed to investigate alternative aims. Here, we re-evaluate the strength of evidence for top-predator control-induced mesopredator release from these three studies after comprehensive analyses of associated unpublished correlative and experimental data. Circumstantial evidence alluded to mesopredator releases of either the European Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) or feral Cat (Felis catus) coinciding with Dingo (Canis lupus dingo) control in each case. Importantly, however, substantial limitations in predator population sampling techniques and/or experimental designs preclude strong assertions about the effect of lethal control on mesopredator populations from these studies. In all cases, multiple confounding factors and plausible alternative explanations for observed changes in predator populations exist. In accord with several critical reviews and a growing body of demonstrated experimental evidence on the subject, we conclude that there is an absence of reliable evidence for top-predator control-induced mesopredator release from these three case studies. Well-designed and executed studies are critical for investigating potential top-predator control-induced mesopredator release.
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