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

Saturday 22 November 2014

Urbanisation, predation and house sparrow populations

De Coster, G., De Laet, J., Vangestel, C., Adriaensen, F., & Lens, L. (2015). Citizen science in action—Evidence for long-term, region-wide House Sparrow declines in Flanders, Belgium. Landscape and Urban Planning, 134, 139-146.

Urban expansion is detrimental for many species. While the House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) initially flourished in the vicinity of men, a decline in House Sparrow numbers has been observed in several European cities during the last decades. A lack of systematic data on the status of this species in the highly urbanized Flanders (Belgium) has been the reason why since 2002, the Flemish population has been called annually to count House Sparrows during the breeding season. Here, we describe the results of the first ten years of sparrow counting. While inhabitants from 99% of the municipalities participated at least once, large differences in numbers of participants were observed among municipalities: the larger the population size, the more people counted sparrows. Results indicated that House Sparrow abundances have been decreasing in Flanders over the past decade. Contrary to several other European regions, the decline appears equally strong in rural and urban areas. However, average numbers of House Sparrows were lower in more densely populated, urban areas, and where less cropland, grassland and parks surrounded the sampling location. House Sparrow abundances also decreased significantly over time at locations where predator pressure increased. These results suggest that the House Sparrow decline in Flanders is due to the ever encroaching urbanization and the reduction of the amount of green space. Furthermore, it shows that data collection by volunteers can be a useful approach to obtain large-scale and long-term data in a relatively easy way, in addition to raising public awareness to the natural environme

Friday 21 November 2014

Mediterranean mesocarnivore communities along urban and ex-urban gradients

RECIO, M. R., ARIJA, C. M., CABEZAS-DÍAZ, S., & VIRGÓS, E. (2015). Changes in Mediterranean mesocarnivore communities along urban and ex-urban gradients.

Urbanization causes wildlife habitat loss, fragmentation, and the replacement of specialist species by generalists and/or exotic taxa. Because mesocarnivores are particularly vulnerable to habitat modifications, the rapid expansion of urban areas and the increasing trend for ex-urban development occurring in Mediterranean ecosystems may be major drivers of change in mesocarnivore communities. We combined camera trapping and sign surveys to quantify the richness and relative abundance of a set of wild and domestic mesocarnivores. We quantified these variables controlling for the gradient of urbanism, ex-urbanism, and other environmental variables in patches of natural vegetation in the region of Madrid (central Spain), and a non-urbanized control area ~220 km south of Madrid city. Using conditional autoregressive models (CAR) and model selection procedures, we found that urbanization influenced mesocarnivore community composition but this influence was not detrimental for all the species tested. Generalist carnivores such as the red fox Vulpes vulpes were more abundant in urban and ex-urban areas. Ex-urban development creates overlapping areas between wild and domestic species (such as the domestic cat Felis catus and the wildcat Felis silvestris) but contact between wild and domestic carnivores in natural areas is unlikely. Detection of species in the control area was very low. Therefore, the impact of urbanization in causing changes in mesocarnivore communities may be less than other factors such as illegal predator culling [Current Zoology 61 () : – , 2015 ].

Wednesday 19 November 2014

Stray dog's census in Lima

Ochoa, A., Falcón, P., Zuazo, R., & Guevara, P. (2014). Estimated population of stray dogs in the district of Los Olivos, Lima, Peru. Revista de Investigaciones Veterinarias del Perú (RIVEP), 25(3), 366-373.
The aim of this study was to estimate and characterize the stray dog population in Los Olivos district, Lima, during the period November-December 2012. Eight of the 34 areas that comprise the district according the map of Los Olivos Municipality were selected. The selection of the areas was at random; dog population counting and calculations were based on the criteria outlined in the guide of the World Society for the Protection of Animals entitled "Recensusing roaming dog populations: guidelines on methodology". Three consecutive sampling were performed at daytime and evening hours in each area. The average of the three measurements was used for statistical calculations. There was an average of 332 stray dogs at daytime and 217 stray dogs at evening; males and bigger dogs were observed in higher number. Most of the dogs showed low body condition score. The estimated number of stray dogs in the district was 1411±643 at daytime and 922±497 at night. Results are expected to contribute with the dog control population programme that is being implemented by the Municipality of Los Olivos.

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Domestic dogs and disease transmission in Atlantic forest, Brazil

Curi, N. H. D. A. (2014). Cães domésticos como espécie invasora na Mata Atlântica: sentinelas de saúde ecológica. Universidade Federal de Lavras.
The importance of health and diseases for biodiversity conservation is worldwide recognized since decades ago.  However, in Brazil, only recently this concern has entered the scientific and conservationist community. Despite the lack of data on the real impact of diseases over the Brazolian wildlife, some species shows ecological and epidemiological traits that may make them good health sentinels in certain scenarios, being also targets for prevention of outbreaks or disease-induced mortality in threatened populations. Domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) are considered an invasive species with high negative impact over wildlife. The yact as efficient mesopredators, competitively interfere and are the main reservoirs of pathogens to wild carnivores. They are also an important source of zoonosis, and recent studies demonstrate that they are strongly present inside Brazilian protected areas. However, little is known about their potential as disease reservoirs for humans and animals in wildlife/domestic animal/human interface zones in the country. Even less is known about the factors associated with this potential. With this background in mind, the aims of this study were to assess the occurrence and prevalence of infectious agents and parasites important for conservation (especially of mammal carnivores) and for human health in rural dog populations living around and near Atlantic Forest fragments, and also to raise disease-related rixk factors. Such factors can be ultimately manageable to protect human and animal health in these areas. We used a cross-sectional epidemilogical approach to perform a serologic inquiry of dogs for several diseases, such as leishmaniasis, canine distemper, parvovirosis, adenovirosis, coronavirosis and gastrointestinal parasites, and tested associations betweeen seropositivity versus individual and envireomental features involved with disease transmission between domestic animals, humans and wildlife. For this end, we usesd statistical tools such as logistic regressions and generalized linear mixed models, depending on pathogen type. We then listed the factors associated with disease presence, and suggested preventive measures in a case basis. Free-roaming behavior and poor management practices were among them. These results are important for human health protection in these scenarios. And, principally, provide guidelines for conservation action targeting a reduction of an important but neglected cause of extinction and threatening of wild carnivores in Brazil:diseases introduced and maintained by ubiquitous domestic dog populations. We hope the results stimulate practices, public policies and legislation to reduce the ecological and epidemiological impact of domestic dogs in biodiversity-rich areas.

Monday 17 November 2014

Meta-analysis of the proportion of dogs surrendered for dog-related and owner-related reasons

Lambert, K., Coe, J., Niel, L., Dewey, C., & Sargeant, J. M. (2014). A systematic review and meta-analysis of the proportion of dogs surrendered for dog-related and owner-related reasons. Preventive Veterinary Medicine.


• We summarized results across identified studies that reported the proportion of dogs surrendered for various reasons and combined the results in an attempt to provide a more precise result for the most-commonly reported reasons.
• We determined possible sources of heterogeneity a priori and explored these to provide an explanation for the variation in results among the studies
.• Owner health/illness as a reason for dog surrender to a shelter had an overall estimate of 4.6% (95% CI: 4.1%, 5.2%).
• Country was identified as a significant source of variation (p < 0.01) among studies reporting behavioural problems as a reason for dog surrender for euthanasia.
• There is the need for further research and standardization of data collection to improve understanding of the reasons for dog relinquishment.


Companion-animal relinquishment is a worldwide phenomenon that leaves companion animals homeless. Knowing why humans make the decision to end their relationship with a companion-animal can help in our understanding of this complex societal issue and can help to develop preventive strategies. A systematic review and meta-analysis was conducted to summarize reasons why dogs are surrendered, and determine if certain study characteristics were associated with the reported proportions of reasons for surrender.

Articles investigating one or more reasons for dog surrender were selected from the references of a published scoping review. Two reviewers assessed the titles and abstracts of these articles, identifying 39 relevant articles. From these, 21 articles were further excluded because of ineligible study design, insufficient data available for calculating a proportion, or no data available for dogs. Data were extracted from 18 articles and meta-analysis was conducted on articles investigating reasons for dog surrender to a shelter (n = 9) or dog surrender for euthanasia (n = 5). Three studies were excluded from meta-analysis because they were duplicate populations. Other reasons for excluding studies from meta-analysis were, (1) the study only investigated reasons for dog re-relinquishment (n = 2), and (2) the study sample size was < 10 (n = 1). Two articles investigated reasons for both dog surrender to a shelter and dog surrender for euthanasia. Results of meta-analysis found owner health/illness as a reason for dog surrender to a shelter had an overall estimate of 4.6% (95% CI: 4.1%, 5.2%). For all other identified reasons for surrender there was significant variation in methodology among studies preventing further meta-analysis. Univariable meta-regression was conducted to explore sources of variation among these studies. Country was identified as a significant source of variation (p < 0.01) among studies reporting behavioural problems as a reason for dog surrender for euthanasia. The overall estimate for studies from Australia was 10% (95% CI: 8.0%, 12.0%; I2 = 15.5%), compared to 16% (95% CI: 15.0%, 18.0%; I2 = 20.2%) for studies from other countries.

The present systematic review and meta-analysis highlights the need for further research and standardization of data collection to improve understanding of the reasons for dog relinquishment.

Sunday 16 November 2014

Dog bite profile in urban India

Ghosh, A., & Pal, R. (2014) PROFILE OF DOG BITE CASES IN AN URBAN AREA OF KOLKATA, INDIA. National Journal of Community Medicine, 5 (3)

Background: There is no nationally representative community based data or organized surveillance system to get the actual magnitude of Ra- bies infection in India. 
Objectives: To estimate the extent of problem & the epidemiological characteristics of animal bite cases in urban field practice area of KPC Medical College and to assess the risk correlates regarding animal bites. 
Methods: The present community based cross sectional study was con- ducted in the urban field practice area of KPC Medical College; Kolkata during the period from 15th May to 15th June 2013 using classification of exposures as per guidelines lay down by WHO. 
Results: In the present study of the reported animal bite cases affected all the ages and both genders; the incidence of animal bites decreased with increasing age. Majority of the victims were males except in elderly population; children were more vulnerable. Two thirds of animal bite victims were from socioeconomic class IV and V. Dogs were the most common biting animal followed by Cats. Maximum number of study participants reported to health centre within 24 to 48 hours and very few cases within 24 hours after bite. Late reported cases, especially after 5 days, constituted by younger children or illiterate elderly people were forcefully brought to the hospital by their family members or caregivers. 
Conclusions: Dog bite is common in males and children less than ten years among our study population with more of third degree bites though health seeking behaviour is far from expectation.

Saturday 15 November 2014

Size estimation and demography of owned pets in NE ITaly

Capello, K., Bortolotti, L., Lanari, M., Baioni, E., Mutinelli, F., & Vascellari, M. (2014). Estimate of the size and demographic structure of the owned dog and cat population living in Veneto region (north-eastern Italy). Preventive Veterinary Medicine.

The knowledge of the size and demographic structure of animal populations is a necessary prerequisite for any population-based epidemiological study, especially to ascertain and interpret prevalence data, to implement surveillance plans in controlling zoonotic diseases and, moreover, to provide accurate estimates of tumours incidence data obtained by population-based registries. The main purpose of this study was to provide an accurate estimate of the size and structure of the canine population in Veneto region (north-eastern Italy), using the Lincoln-Petersen version of the capture-recapture methodology. The Regional Canine Demographic Registry (BAC) and a sample survey of households of Veneto Region were the capture and recapture sources, respectively. The secondary purpose was to estimate the size and structure of the feline population in the same region, using the same survey applied for dog population. A sample of 2,465 randomly selected households was drawn and submitted to a questionnaire using the CATI technique, in order to obtain information about the ownership of dogs and cats. If the dog was declared to be identified, owner's information was used to recapture the dog in the BAC. The study was conducted in Veneto Region during 2011, when the dog population recorded in the BAC was 605,537. Overall, 616 households declared to possess at least one dog (25%), with a total of 805 dogs and an average per household of 1.3. The capture-recapture analysis showed that 574 dogs (71.3%, 95% CI: 68.04% - 74.40%) had been recaptured in both sources, providing a dog population estimate of 849,229 (95% CI: 814,747 - 889,394), 40% higher than that registered in the BAC. Concerning cats, 455 of 2,465 (18%, 95%CI: 17% - 20%) households declared to possess at least one cat at the time of the telephone interview, with a total of 816 cats. The mean number of cats per household was equal to 1.8, providing an estimate of the cat population in Veneto region equal to 663,433 (95%CI: 626,585 - 737,159). The estimate of the size and structure of owned canine and feline populations in Veneto region provide useful data to perform epidemiological studies and monitoring plans in this area.

Friday 14 November 2014

Model to understand multispecies disease transmition between domestic and wild canids

Belsare, A. V., & Gompper, M. E. (2015). A model-based approach for investigation and mitigation of disease spillover risks to wildlife: Dogs, foxes and canine distemper in central India. Ecological Modelling, 296, 102-112.

Multi-host pathogens can pose a serious conservation threat when free-ranging domestic animal populations occur alongside susceptible populations of wild species. An example is canine distemper virus (CDV), which can occur at high prevalence in domestic dog (Canis familiaris) populations from which it may be transmitted (spillover) into wild carnivore populations. Effective management of such disease threats is hindered by our limited understanding of the the dynamics of interspecific CDV transmission in natural settings. We used a modeling approach to better understand CDV spillover threats to wild Indian foxes (Vulpes bengalensis) occurring in a protected grassland habitat in central India. An agent-based stochastic simulation model was built, and parameterized with data from ecological and epidemiological studies. Based on the sensitivity analyses of the model, the CDV incidence rate in dogs was most influenced by the proportion of roamer dogs in the dog population. The CDV incidence rate in dogs was also sensitive to the CDV introduction frequency in the dog population. The proportion of roamer dogs in the dog population also influenced the number of CDV spillover events. The basic reproductive number (R0) for CDV in the model fox population was 0.85, indicating that CDV could not be independently sustained in the fox population. We used the model to explore potential management strategies to mitigate the risk of CDV spillover. Vaccination of local dog populations was an ineffective disease control strategy, while fox vaccination was highly effective. Interventions potentially resulting in lower contact rates between dogs and foxes, like reduction in village dog density and restricting dog movements in fox habitat, implemented in a sustained and integrated manner would be most effective in mitigating disease threats to foxes. Such modeling approaches can be used to better understand disease threats for other species of management concern, and to contrast potential management interventions.

Thursday 13 November 2014

Toxoplasmosis in prey species and consequences for prevalence in feral cats

Afonso, E., Thulliez, P., Pontier, D., & Gilot-Fromont, E. (2007). Toxoplasmosis in prey species and consequences for prevalence in feral cats: not all prey species are equal. Parasitology, 134(14), 1963-1971.

Toxoplasma gondii is largely transmitted to definitive felid hosts through predation. Not all prey species represent identical risks of infection for cats because of differences in prey susceptibility, exposure and/or lifespan. Previously published studies have shown that prevalence in rodent and lagomorph species is positively correlated with body mass. We tested the hypothesis that different prey species have different infection risks by comparing infection dynamics of feral cats at 4 sites in the sub-Antarctic Kerguelen archipelago which differed in prey availability. Cats were trapped from 1994 to 2004 and anti-T. gondii IgG antibodies were detected using the modified agglutination test (1:40). Overall seroprevalence was 51·09%. Antibody prevalence differed between sites, depending on diet and also on sex, after taking into account the effect of age. Males were more often infected than females and the difference between the sexes tended to be more pronounced in the site where more prey species were available. A difference in predation efficiency between male and female cats may explain this result. Overall, our results suggest that the composition of prey items in cat diet influences the risk of T. gondii infection. Prey compositon should therefore be considered important in any understanding of infection dynamics of T. gondii.

FIV and FeLV in native and stray felines

Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline leukemia virus (FeLV) are two of the most common viruses affecting domestic cats (Felis catus). During the last two decades, reports show that both viruses also infect or affect other species of the family Felidae. Human landscape perturbation is one of the main causes of emerging diseases in wild animals, facilitating contact and transmission of pathogens between domestic and wild animals. We investigated FIV and FeLV infection in free-ranging guignas (Leopardus guigna) and sympatric domestic cats in human perturbed landscapes on Chiloé Island, Chile. Samples from 78 domestic cats and 15 guignas were collected from 2008 to 2010 and analyzed by PCR amplification and sequencing. Two guignas and two domestic cats were positive for FIV; three guignas and 26 domestic cats were positive for FeLV. The high percentage of nucleotide identity of FIV and FeLV sequences from both species suggests possible interspecies transmission of viruses, facilitated by increased contact probability through human invasion into natural habitats, fragmentation of guigna habitat, and poultry attacks by guignas. This study enhances our knowledge on the transmission of pathogens from domestic to wild animals in the global scenario of human landscape perturbation and emerging diseases.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Sponsored neutering programs reduces shelter intake and euthanasia

White, S. C., Jefferson, E., & Levy, J. K. (2010). Impact of publicly sponsored neutering programs on animal population dynamics at animal shelters: The New Hampshire and Austin experiences. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 13(3), 191-212.

This study found that government-funded surgical sterilization of companion animals has been widely promoted as a means of decreasing shelter intake and euthanasia. However, little information is available about the true impact of these programs on community and shelter nonhuman animal population dynamics. This study estimated the impact of the Animal Population Control Program in New Hampshire by comparing shelter intake and euthanasia data before and after the onset of the neutering initiative. Regression analysis demonstrated a significant decrease in cat intake and euthanasia during the years after program onset, a trend that appears to begin prior to the program's initiation; however, there was no decrease in dog intake or euthanasia. This study also estimated the impact of the Austin-based EmanciPET Free Spay/Neuter Program by comparing shelter intake and euthanasia data from the targeted program areas versus nonprogram areas within the city. Regression analysis demonstrated a significantly lower rate of increase for dog and cat intake and euthanasia in the program areas. Prospective studies should determine the effectiveness and affordability of different models for funding and delivering neutering services.

Effect of high-impact targeted trap-neuter-return and adoption of community cats on cat intake to a shelter

Levy, J. K., Isaza, N. M., & Scott, K. C. (2014). Effect of high-impact targeted trap-neuter-return and adoption of community cats on cat intake to a shelter.The Veterinary Journal.

Approximately 2–3 million cats enter animal shelters annually in the United States. A large proportion of these are unowned community cats that have no one to reclaim them and may be too unsocialized for adoption. More than half of impounded cats are euthanased due to shelter crowding, shelter-acquired disease or feral behavior. Trap-neuter-return (TNR), an alternative to shelter impoundment, improves cat welfare and reduces the size of cat colonies, but has been regarded as too impractical to reduce cat populations on a larger scale or to limit shelter cat intake. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of TNR concentrated in a region of historically high cat impoundments in a Florida community. A 2-year program was implemented to capture and neuter at least 50% of the estimated community cats in a single 11.9 km2 zip code area, followed by return to the neighborhood or adoption. Trends in shelter cat intake from the target zip code were compared to the rest of the county.

A total of 2366 cats, representing approximately 54% of the projected community cat population in the targeted area, were captured for the TNR program over the 2-year study period. After 2 years, per capita shelter intake was 3.5-fold higher and per capita shelter euthanasia was 17.5-fold higher in the non-target area than in the target area. Shelter cat impoundment from the target area where 60 cats/1000 residents were neutered annually decreased by 66% during the 2-year study period, compared to a decrease of 12% in the non-target area, where only 12 cats/1000 residents were neutered annually. High-impact TNR combined with the adoption of socialized cats and nuisance resolution counseling for residents is an effective tool for reducing shelter cat intake.

Effect on shelter cat intakes and euthanasia from a shelter neuter return project

Johnson, K. L., & Cicirelli, J. (2014). Study of the effect on shelter cat intakes and euthanasia from a shelter neuter return project of 10,080 cats from March 2010 to June 2014. PeerJ, 2, e646.

Cat impoundments were increasing at the municipal San Jose animal shelter in 2009, despite long-term successful low cost sterilization programs and attempts to lower the euthanasia rate of treatable-rehabilitatable impounds beginning in 2008. San Jose Animal Care and Services implemented a new strategy designed to control overall feral cat reproduction by altering and returning feral cats entering the shelter system, rather than euthanizing the cats. The purpose of this case study was to determine how the program affected the shelter cat intakes over time. In just over four years, 10,080 individual healthy adult feral cats, out of 11,423 impounded at the shelter during this time frame, were altered and returned to their site of capture. Included in the 11,423 cats were 862 cats impounded from one to four additional times for a total of 958 (9.5%) recaptures of the previously altered 10,080 cats. The remaining 385 healthy feral cats were euthanized at the shelter from March 2010 to June 2014. Four years into the program, researchers observed cat and kitten impounds decreased 29.1%; euthanasia decreased from over 70% of intakes in 2009, to 23% in 2014. Euthanasia in the shelter for Upper Respiratory Disease decreased 99%; dead cat pick up off the streets declined 20%. Dog impounds did not similarly decline over the four years. No other laws or program changes were implemented since the beginning of the program.

Tuesday 11 November 2014

The welfare of feral cats and wildlife

Jessup, D. A. (2004). The welfare of feral cats and wildlife. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 225(9), 1377-1383.

No. of animals accessioned
No. Cat related accessions
All birds
All mammals
All reptiles

Table 1—Data used to calculate the percentage of cat-related accessions to the Lindsay Museum of Walnut Creek, Calif, for all species and for susceptible birds (ie, nonraptors and pelagic birds).
Morris, K. N., Wolf, J. L., & Gies, D. L. (2011). Trends in intake and outcome data for animal shelters in Colorado, 2000 to 2007. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 238(3), 329-336.

Objective—To measure trends in animal shelter intake and outcome data for dogs and cats in Colorado on a statewide, urban, and rural basis from 2000 through 2007.

Design—Retrospective cohort study.

Sample Population—A group of 104 animal shelters and rescue organizations from Colorado representing 92% and 94% of statewide dog and cat intake, respectively, in 2007.

Procedures—Annual animal shelter data were analyzed for trends by use of linear regression analysis. Trends in urban and rural subgroups of shelters were compared by use of Student t tests.

Results—Statewide, the number of intakes/1,000 residents decreased by 10.8% for dogs during the 8-year study period, but increased by 19.9% for cats. There was no change in the dog euthanasia rate at 3.7/1,000 residents/y, but the rate for cats increased by 35.7% to 3.9/1,000 residents/y. There was no change in the statewide live release rate for dogs or cats, but there was a decrease of 12.6% for cats in the urban subgroup.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—The trends suggested that the number of unwanted dogs in Colorado decreased during the study period, whereas the number of unwanted cats in animal shelters increased. There were clear differences in the trends in the urban and rural data, suggesting different needs in each type of community. At the current level of resource allocation, the shelter dynamics for dogs appeared to have reached equilibrium with respect to euthanasia. Transfers were increasingly being used within all regions of the state to optimize the chances of adoption.

Monday 10 November 2014

Cat predation assessed through kitty-cams

Morling, F. (2014). Cape Town's cats: reassessing predation through kitty-cam. Mini Thesis.

Domestic cats (Felis catus) are abundant generalist predators that exploit a wide range of prey within and adjacent to the urban matrix. Cats are known to have contributed to the extinction and endangerment (mostly on islands) of a number of indigenous species, including birds, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Most research on this important topic has been carried out in the developed world, predominantly in Australia, New Zealand, the U.K., the U.S. and Canada with only four studies carried out in Africa. Of these, two studies in Cape Town suggest that domestic cats have a big impact on wildlife but these studies may have underestimated predation because they failed to account for the proportion of prey not returned to participants’ homes. In this study I used kitty-cams in an attempt to provide a prey correction factor for urban cats in Cape Town, South Africa. I investigated hunting of wildlife by free-ranging domestic cats in Newlands, a suburb of Cape Town, South Africa over 5 weeks in 2013. I monitored 13 cats (6 deep-urban and 7 urban-edge) by questionnaire survey, asking cat owners to record all prey items returned by their cats. A total of 43 prey items were returned, 42% of which were small mammals, 30% invertebrates, 12% reptiles, 9% amphibians and 7% birds. Combining these data with two similar survey studies carried out in Cape Town I estimated that a total of 118 cats caught an average of 0.04 prey items per cat per day. Ten of the 13 cats were also monitored for 3 weeks using kitty-cam video cameras. Participating cats wore a video camera and all activity was analysed for prey captures and behavioural activity patterns.

Sunday 9 November 2014

Factors regulating the presence of domestic dogs in a national park

Soto, C. A., & Palomares, F. (2014). Human-related factors regulate the presence of domestic dogs in protected areas. Oryx, 1-7.

The presence of domestic species such as dogs Canis familiaris in protected areas can cause problems for native species as a result of competition, predation and disease transmission. To improve our ability to design effective control policies we investigated the factors affecting detection of dog tracks in a Mediterranean national park.
We investigated the presence of dogs across 69 2 × 2 km grid squares in Doñana National Park in south-west Spain and used logistic regression models to analyse the associated environmental and human constraints. We did not detect dogs in areas away from the edges of the national park close to human settlements (track census effort > 470 km) and the detection of dog tracks was correlated with human presence. We conclude that domestic dogs occasionally enter the Park from the surrounding area and are a direct threat to wildlife at the edges of the Park. Management actions to reduce the effects of domestic dogs in protected areas where feral dog populations are not established should focus on the spatial extent of local settlements, regulation and awareness-raising to encourage responsible dog-ownership, and control measures such as removing un-owned dogs from boundaries and areas close to human dwellings, and forbidding unleashed dogs in public facilities.

Saturday 8 November 2014

Adjustments to new predators in the Galapagos marine iguana

Berger, S., Wikelski, M., Romero, L. M., Kalko, E. K., & Rödl, T. (2007). Behavioral and physiological adjustments to new predators in an endemic island species, the Galapagos marine iguana. Hormones and behavior, 52(5), 653-663.

For the past 5 to 15 million years, marine iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus), endemic to the Galápagos archipelago, experienced relaxed predation pressure and consequently show negligible anti-predator behavior. However, over the past few decades introduced feral cats and dogs started to prey on iguanas on some of the islands. We investigated experimentally whether behavioral and endocrine anti-predator responses changed in response to predator introduction. We hypothesized that flight initiation distances (FID) and corticosterone (CORT) concentrations should increase in affected populations to cope with the novel predators. Populations of marine iguanas reacted differentially to simulated predator approach depending on whether or not they were previously naturally exposed to introduced predators. FIDs were larger at sites with predation than at sites without predation. Furthermore, the occurrence of new predators was associated with increased stress-induced CORT levels in marine iguanas. In addition, age was a strong predictor of variation in FID and CORT levels. Juveniles, which are generally more threatened by predators compared to adults, showed larger FIDs and higher CORT baseline levels as well as higher stress-induced levels than adults. The results demonstrate that this naive island species shows behavioral and physiological plasticity associated with actual predation pressure, a trait that is presumably adaptive. However, the adjustments in FID are not sufficient to cope with the novel predators. We suggest that low behavioral plasticity in the face of introduced predators may drive many island species to extinction.

Feral Cats in the Ogasawara Islands

Last week, the Ogasawara Islands were named a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site:

The island chain, which has never been connected with a continent, has been dubbed the “Galapagos of the Orient” because animals and plants there have undergone unique evolutionary processes–similar to wildlife on the Galapagos Islands.

In particular, 100 of the 106 species of land snails found on the islands are indigenous.

The islands, which include Chichijima and Hahajima islands, are regarded as the only place in the world where geological features visible from the ground show how an archipelago is formed when oceanic plates bump against each other.

Conservation groups have been working hard to protect the islands’ unique ecosystem. One conservation project involves the capture of feral cats, descendants of pets that humans brought to the island

Friday 7 November 2014

Feral cats eradicated from Tasman Island

Feral cats eradicated from Tasman Island


Tasman Island’s sea birds are on the road to recovery following the success of a program to eradicate feral cats and restore the island’s natural values.

The Minister for Environment, Parks and Heritage, Brian Wightman, said a final check of the island last week by staff from the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment found no sign of feral cats and the island has been declared free from feral cats.

The program to eradicate cats from the 120 hectare island, which forms part of the Tasman National Park, began in 2008. Detailed research and planning was undertaken and an eradication plan was produced in 2009.

Tasman Island is home to Australia’s largest colony of fairy prions and it was estimated that the island’s feral cat population of about 50 was killing approximately 50,000 fairy prions and other sea birds each year.

Thursday 6 November 2014

Mass dog poisoning operation in Addis Ababa

Yilma D.A. 2013. Mass dog poisoning operation in Addis Ababa can have severe repercussions on vulture populations. Vulture News 64: 74–76

In Addis Ababa until April 2013 at least 12 000 stray dogs were poisoned, in relation to the potential and growing concern of the risk of rabies to society, and dumped unburied at the city dump.

Dog ecology and demography in Machakos District, Kenya

Kitala, P., McDermott, J., Kyule, M., Gathuma, J., Perry, B., & Wandeler, A. (2001). Dog ecology and demography information to support the planning of rabies control in Machakos District, Kenya. Acta Tropica, 78(3), 217-230.

A study of 150 dog-owning households from six randomly selected sublocations was conducted in Machakos District, Kenya. Initially, all households were visited to collect information on dog ecology and demography based on WHO guidelines and to collect serum for rabies antibody detection. A second visit was made 1 year later, to obtain follow-up data on births, deaths, dog movements and other events since the first visit. Dog ownership was common, with a range of 53–81% (mean=63%) of households owning dogs in the six sublocations. Dog density for the five more rural sublocations ranged from 6 to 21 dogs  km-2 and for the peri-urban sublocation was 110 dogs  km-2. The dog population was estimated to be growing at 9% p.a. (95% C.I. 4–14%). This growth was a function of very high fecundity (1.3 females per female per year) more than compensating for high mortality, particularly among females. Life expectancy from birth was 3.5 years for males and 2.4 years for females. Half the dogs at any one time were less than 1 year of age. All dogs, by design of the study, were owned. Of these, 69% were never restricted and roamed freely to forage for food and mix with other dogs. Only a small proportion of dogs (5%) were fed commercial dog food. Most households reported observing dogs scavenging their garbage, including: their own dogs (81%), their neighbours’ dogs (75%) and unknown dogs (45%). Only 29% of dogs at least 3 months of age were reported to be vaccinated against rabies. The proportion vaccinated varied widely between sublocations (5–68%); 48% of dogs reportedly vaccinated had detectable antibodies, 31% at or above levels considered to indicate seroconversion. The proportion of dogs with detectable antibodies declined according to the time since last vaccination (55% if vaccinated ≤1 year, 47% ≤2 years and 36% >2 years); 20% of dogs reported not to have been vaccinated had detectable rabies antibody. Compared to other dog populations in rural eastern and southern Africa, Machakos District has a high density of dogs. The Machakos dog population is growing, highly dynamic, poorly supervised and inadequately vaccinated against rabies. The main implication for rabies control is that adequate vaccination coverage is unlikely to be achieved, even under optimal delivery, using the current strategy of annual vaccination of dogs older than 3 months.

Dog ecology and demography in Antananarivo

Ratsitorahina, M., Rasambainarivo, J. H., Raharimanana, S., Rakotonandrasana, H., Andriamiarisoa, M. P., Rakalomanana, F. A., & Richard, V. (2009). Dog ecology and demography in Antananarivo, 2007. BMC veterinary research, 5(1), 21.


Rabies is a widespread disease in African domestic dogs and a serious public health problem in developing countries. Canine rabies became established in Africa during the 20th century, coinciding with ecologic changes that favored its emergence in canids.

This paper reports the results of a cross-sectional study of dog ecology in the Antananarivo urban community in Madagascar.

A questionnaire survey of 1541 households was conducted in Antananarivo from October 2007 to January 2008. The study addressed both owned and unowned dogs. Various aspects of dog ecology were determined, including size of dog population, relationship between dogs and humans, rabies vaccination.


Dog ownership was common, with 79.6 to 94.1% (mean 88.9%) of households in the six arrondissements owning dogs. The mean owned dog to person ratio was 1 dog per 4.5 persons and differed between arrondissements (administrative districts), with ratios of 1:6.0 in the first arrondissement, 1:3.2 persons in the 2nd, 1:4.8 in the 3rd, 1:5.2 in the 4th, 1:5.6 in the 5th and 1:4.4 in the 6th arrondissement. Overall, there were more male dogs (61.3%) and the male/female sex ratio was estimated to be 1.52; however, mature females were more likely than males to be unowned (OR: 1.93, CI 95%; 1.39<OR<2.69). Most (79.1%) owned dogs were never restricted and roamed freely to forage for food and mix with other dogs. Only a small proportion of dogs (11.7%) were fed with commercial dog food. Only 7.2% of owned dogs had certificates confirming vaccination against rabies. The proportion of vaccinated dogs varied widely between arrondissements (3.3% to 17.5%).

Antananarivo has a higher density of dogs than many other urban areas in Africa. The dog population is unrestricted and inadequately vaccinated against rabies. This analysis of the dog population will enable targeted planning of rabies control efforts.

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Estimating stray dogs in Lima, Perú

Ochoa, Y., Falcón, N., Zuazo, J., & Guevara, B. (2014). Estimación de la población de perros callejeros en el distrito de Los Olivos, Lima, Perú. Revista de Investigaciones Veterinarias del Perú, 25(3), 366-373.

El objetivo del estudio fue estimar y caracterizar la población de perros callejeros en el distrito de Los Olivos durante el periodo noviembre y diciembre 2012. Para ello se seleccionaron 8 de las 34 zonas que divide al distrito en el plano municipal. La selección de las zonas fue de forma aleatoria y para el conteo y cálculos de la población de perros se utilizaron los criterios expuestos en la guía «Censando poblaciones de perros callejeros: guía metodológica» de la World Society for the Protection of Animals. Se realizaron tres muestreos consecutivos en horarios diurno y nocturno en cada zona. Se utilizó la media de las tres mediciones para realizar los cálculos estadísticos. El estudio reportó un promedio de 332 perros callejeros en horario diurno y de 217 en horario nocturno. Los animales machos y los de tamaño grande se observaron en mayor número. La mayoría de perros poseía un índice de condición corporal bajo. La estimación del número de perros callejeros en el distrito fue de 1 411 ± 643 en horario diurno y de 922 ± 497 en horario nocturno. Se espera que los resultados aporten información de línea base al programa de control poblacional canino que viene trabajando la Municipalidad Distrital de Los Olivos.

The aim of this study was to estimate and characterize the stray dog population in Los Olivos district, Lima, during the period November - December 2012. Eight of the 34 areas that comprise the district according the map of Los Olivos Municipality were selected. The selection of the areas was at random; dog population counting and calculations were based on the criteria outlined in the guide of the World Society for the Protection of Animals entitled «Recensusing roaming dog populations: guidelines on methodology». Three consecutive sampling were performed at daytime and evening hours in each area. The average of the three measurements was used for statistical calculations. There was an average of 332 stray dogs at daytime and 217 stray dogs at evening; males and bigger dogs were observed in higher number. Most of the dogs showed low body condition score. The estimated number of stray dogs in the district was 1411 ± 643 at daytime and 922 ± 497 at night. Results are expected tocontribute with the dog control population programme that is being implemented by the Municipality of Los Olivos.

Evolution of antipredator behavior in an island lizard species: the sum of all fears?

Brock, K. M., Bednekoff, P. A., Pafilis, P., & Foufopoulos, J. (2014). Evolution of antipredator behavior in an island lizard species, Podarcis erhardii (Reptilia: Lacertidae): the sum of all fears?. Evolution.

Organisms generally have many defenses against predation yet may lack effective defenses if from populations without predators. Evolutionary theory predicts that ‘costly’ antipredator behaviors will be selected against when predation risk diminishes. We examined antipredator behaviors in Aegean wall lizards, Podarcis erhardii, across an archipelago of land-bridge islands that vary in predator diversity and period of isolation. We examined two defenses, flight initiation distance and tail autotomy. Flight initiation distance generally decreased with declining predator diversity. All predator types had distinctive effects on flight initiation distance with mammals and birds having the largest estimated effects. Rates of autotomy observed in the field were highest on predator-free islands yet laboratory-induced autotomy increased linearly with overall predator diversity. Against expectation from previous work, tail autotomy was not explained solely by the presence of vipers. Analyses of populations directly isolated from rich predator communities revealed that flight initiation distance decreased with increased duration of isolation in addition to the effects of current predator diversity, whereas tail autotomy could be explained simply by current predator diversity. Although selection against costly defenses should depend on time with reduced threats, different defenses may diminish along different trajectories even within the same predator-prey system.

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Successful eradication of invasive vertebrates on Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands, NZ

Griffiths, R., Buchanan, F., Broome, K., Neilsen, J., Brown, D., & Weakley, M. (2014). Successful eradication of invasive vertebrates on Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands, New Zealand. Biological Invasions, 1-15.

An eradication program conducted on Rangitoto and Motutapu islands in New Zealand successfully removed stoats (Mustela erminea), cats (Felis catus), hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus occidentalis), rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus), mice (Mus musculus) and three species of rat (Rattus rattus, R. exulans and R. norvegicus) from an area of 3,842 ha. The project was significant because it was completed so close to Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, but also, in contrast to many eradication projects, it targeted a suite of invasive mammals in a single operation. To achieve success and avoid conflict in the allocation of resources, target species were prioritized by likelihood of eradication success with resources allocated preferentially to species posing the greatest risk of failure and methods applied in a sequence that allowed each technique to capitalize on its predecessor. Consequences of applying this approach were increased operational efficiency, a shorter operation than planned and reduced project cost. When compared to other projects that targeted the same species but individually, we estimate the Rangitoto and Motutapu project to have cost less than 50 % of the total potential cost if each species had been removed in a discrete operation. Logistical efficiencies created by condensing several operations into one and the use of eradication and detection techniques that targeted multiple species are credited as having the greatest influence on the increased efficiencies observed.

Monday 3 November 2014

The Trouble with Dogs on the Galapagos

The Trouble with Dogs on the Galapagos: Blue-Footed Boobies and Siberian Huskies
By Ketzel Levine
For canines, 1835 was a banner year. The centuries-old sport of bull-baiting — pitting dogs against bulls — was outlawed in England. Breeding began that year for a dog we call the Golden Retriever. And in the fall of ’35, the dogged ship, HMS Beagle, dropped anchor in a zoological paradise, with a young naturalist on board who would later ignite the world of science.

Charles Darwin had no Beagle when he stepped foot on the Galapagos Islands, but visit today and you might see more of them than you will bluefooted boobies. It’s actually against the law to bring animals to the islands, but if you want a Golden Retriever, you can easily smuggle one in. Rest assured, you’ll see no bull-baiting, but you might find a hunting dog gored by a boar.

Welcome to the Galapagos nobody wants to know.

Sunday 2 November 2014

The Practical Guide to the Control of Feral Cats

Fire, grazing and habitat use by feral cats

McGregor, H. W., Legge, S., Jones, M. E., & Johnson, C. N. (2014). Landscape Management of Fire and Grazing Regimes Alters the Fine-Scale Habitat Utilisation by Feral Cats. PLOS ONE, 9(10), e109097.

Intensification of fires and grazing by large herbivores has caused population declines in small vertebrates in many ecosystems worldwide. Impacts are rarely direct, and usually appear driven via indirect pathways, such as changes to predator-prey dynamics. Fire events and grazing may improve habitat and/or hunting success for the predators of small mammals, however, such impacts have not been documented. To test for such an interaction, we investigated fine-scale habitat selection by feral cats in relation to fire, grazing and small-mammal abundance. Our study was conducted in north-western Australia, where small mammal populations are sensitive to changes in fire and grazing management. We deployed GPS collars on 32 cats in landscapes with contrasting fire and grazing treatments. Fine-scale habitat selection was determined using discrete choice modelling of cat movements. We found that cats selected areas with open grass cover, including heavily-grazed areas. They strongly selected for areas recently burnt by intense fires, but only in habitats that typically support high abundance of small mammals. Intense fires and grazing by introduced herbivores created conditions that are favoured by cats, probably because their hunting success is improved. This mechanism could explain why, in northern Australia, impacts of feral cats on small mammals might have increased. Our results suggest the impact of feral cats could be reduced in most ecosystems by maximising grass cover, minimising the incidence of intense fires, and reducing grazing by large herbivores.

Saturday 1 November 2014

Individual hunting behaviour and prey specialisation in the house cat

Dickman, C.R. & T.M. Newsome. 2014 Individual hunting behaviour and prey specialisation in the house cat Felis catus: Implications for conservation and management. Applied Animal Behaviour Science

Predators are often classed as prey specialists if they eat a narrow range of prey types, or as generalists if they hunt multiple prey types. Yet, individual predators often exhibit sex, size, age or personality-related differences in their diets that may alter the impacts of predation on different prey groups. In this study, we ask whether the house cat Felis catus shows individuality and specialisation in its hunting behaviour and discuss the implications of such specialisation for prey conservation and management. We first examine the prey types killed by cats using information obtained from cat owners, and then present data on cat hunting efficiency on different prey types from direct observations. Finally, we quantify dietary shifts in cats when densities of their preferred prey vary. Our results suggest that cats can exhibit individual, or between-phenotype, variation in hunting behaviour, and continue to hunt specific prey types even when these prey become scarce. From a conservation perspective, these findings have important implications, particularly if cats preferentially select rare or threatened species at times when populations of these species are low. Determining whether prey specialisation exists within a given cat population should therefore be useful for assessing the likely risk of localised prey extinctions. If risks are high, conservation managers may need to use targeted measures to control the impacts of specialist individual cats by using specific baits or lures to attract them. We conclude that individuality in hunting behaviour and prey preference may contribute to the predatory efficiency of the house cat, and suggest that studies of the ontogeny and maintenance of specialist behaviours be priorities for future research.
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