Les hommes ont oublié cette vérité. Mais tu ne dois pas l'oublier, dit le renard. Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé.
Le Petit Prince, chap. 21

Thursday 29 December 2016

Research, conservation and urban cat management in NZ

Kikillus, K. H., Chambers, G. K., Farnworth, M. J., & Hare, K. M. 2106. Research challenges and conservation implications for urban cat management in New Zealand. Pacific Conservation Biology.

Over the past 20 years, conservation efforts in New Zealand have moved from being concentrated in rural and isolated island locations, where exotic mammalian predators are often controlled, to begin to bring native fauna back to major cities. However, human–wildlife conflicts arise when conservation occurs in close proximity to cities. These are particularly intense when companion animals are involved either as potential predators or prey of high-value conservation animals. Within New Zealand, this conflict is particularly fraught around domestic cats (Felis catus) in the urban environment. Cats in New Zealand are recognised as major introduced predators of native fauna, but they also prey on small introduced predatory mammals. This dynamic causes much conflict between people with different attitudes towards animals; however, as yet, few studies have explored the role(s), either negative or positive, of urban cats in New Zealand. Here, we review current knowledge on domestic cats in urban New Zealand, identify gaps in knowledge and make suggestions for future research, which includes further social science research, citizen science-based research programs, market research, investigation into cat-management legislation, and more in-depth studies of cat diseases and zoonoses. These data are vital for informing the public and improving the management of urban cat populations, including mitigating conservation impacts. Urban ecologists will need to be versatile in the way they design and conduct experiments, exploiting multiple disciplines to both ensure scientific robustness, but also community and government support for uptake of results into management and legislation.

Sunday 18 December 2016

No evidence of dietary shift by native predators in sympatry with feral cats

Phillips, R. B., Winchell, C. S., & Schmidt, R. H. (2007). Dietary overlap of an alien and native carnivore on San Clemente Island, California. Journal of Mammalogy, 88(1), 173-180.

Predation by feral cats (Felis catus) is recognized as a major threat to native fauna worldwide, but the competitive effects of cats on native species have not been extensively studied. Cats occur on San Clemente Island, California, in sympatry with endemic island foxes (Urocyon littoralis clementae). We examined diets of cats and island foxes between years, seasons, and habitats to assess the potential for resource competition between the 2 species. Analysis of 602 cat and 958 fox feces revealed a high level of dietary overlap (O = 0.93) and relatively narrow niche breadths for both species (Bstandard Fox = 0.37; Bstandard Cat = 0.49). Despite the overlap in diet, cats and foxes appear to partition prey resources. Cats consume approximately equal proportions of arthropod (47.9%) and vertebrate (44.2%) prey, the latter primarily rodents (29.2%) and lizards (12.9%). In contrast, foxes appear to rely more on arthropods (57.7%), with plants (20.5%) and vertebrates (21.6%) occurring in lower, but roughly equal frequencies. Season appeared to have little effect on diet; however, diet did vary between habitats and years for both species. Diets of cats on San Clemente Island are consistent with those from other studies. We found no evidence of a dietary shift by foxes that were in sympatry with cats.

Sunday 11 December 2016

Lethal control of stray dogs could increase frequency of conflicts in India

Yoak, A. J., Reece, J. F., Gehrt, S. D., & Hamilton, I. M. (2016). Optimizing free-roaming dog control programs using agent-based models. Ecological Modelling, 341, 53-61.

Urban free-roaming dog populations in the developing world are managed by a patchwork of local veterinary practitioners, government programs, and non-governmental organizations with varied effectiveness. While lethal removal is still commonly practiced, vaccination and fertility control methods are increasingly being adopted. Identifying which method(s) provides the most cost effective management is needed to inform dog population managers who seek to limit conflicts like dog bites, the spread of disease, and predation on wildlife. Here we describe an agent-based model that simulates the population of free-roaming dogs in Jaipur, a northwestern Indian city. We then apply various lethal and fertility control methodologies to identify which most effectively lowered the dog population size. This spatially explicit model includes temporal and demographic details of street dog populations modeled after data from the study city. We tested each pairing of control type (lethal or fertility) with search method (how to target efforts) to see their efficacy at altering the city’s dog population size, age structure, sterilization coverage, as well as the number of dogs handled. Models were run for 15 years to assess the long term effects of intervention. We found that the fertility control method that targets areas of the city with the highest percentage of intact bitches outperforms all other fertility control and lethal removal programs at reducing the population size while sterilizing a significantly higher proportion of the population. All lethal program methods skewed population demographics towards significantly younger dogs, thus likely increasing the frequency of conflict with humans. This work demonstrates the benefits of modeling differing management policies in free-roaming dogs.

An Islamic perspective with particular reference to unwanted pets–stray dogs and cat

Min, M., & Zaw, C. C. (2016). Animal care: an Islamic perspective with particular reference to unwanted pets–stray dogs and cat. In: Kuala Lumpur International Islamic Studies and Civilisations (KLiISC) 2016, 7th-8th May 2016, Kuala Lumpur.

The topic of animal care especially the area of “unwanted pets in Islam” is rarely distributed among Muslim scholars,  scientists and sociologists even though animal rights movement and animal activists are obviously increased among  modern society. Small animals such as dogs, and cats have been staying together with people since the beginning of  human history. Humans have been receiving numerous benefits from them, such as keeping them as companions, using  them for hunting, house keeping, and conducting research studies. At the same time, the number of stray dogs and cats  population on the streets has increased unexpectedly nowadays, and the risk of getting injury or disease from the stray  animals becomes a huge concern for the community. Some people treated animals with cruelty, and there has been  widespread abuse of animal cases in the society. Animals are part of Allah (SWT) creations, and the Qur’an and the Al- Hadith (sayings of the prophet) prohibit cruelty to them. Islam guides us to treat animals kindly, and have mercy on  them. As Muslims, Islamic teachings and concepts should be contemplated and incorporated in our daily activities. This study was conducted with the purpose of collecting authentic guidelines regarding animal care in Islam, and exploring the view of Muslim scholars regarding animal care. The qualitative, library based approach was used as a research methodology for this study. The data were exclusively sought from books, journals, and Islamic manuscripts that were mainly based on the teachings of the Holy Qu’ran, Sunnah, and views of the Muslim scholars.The rights of animals, and
 human responsibility towards them were clearly presented from the perspectives of Islam. This study pointed out the need for maintaining balance between animal rights, and human benefits, focusing on treating animals with mercy, and reducing their sufferings even in times of killing them as a necessity. The study suggested that a need for developing a strategy by the relevant authorities regarding guidelines on some controversial issues such as animal neutering, spay, or euthanasia to reduce the problems of pet owners, as well as to prevent the dangers of zoonotic diseases in the community. This study also serves as a comprehensive overview for the readers that assist them in obtaining knowledge, and increase understanding of animal care in Islam. And it was expected to make a contribution to pet lovers in order to facilitate necessary prevention before their pets become unwanted and a burden to them.

Progress in the eradication of the feral cat and recovery of the native fauna on Socorro Is

Ortiz-Alcaraz, A., Aguirre-Muñoz, A., Arnaud, G., Galina-Tessaro, P., Rojas-Mayoral, E., Méndez-Sánchez, F., & Ortega-Rubio, A. (2017). Progress in the eradication of the feral cat (Felis catus) and recovery of the native fauna on Socorro Island, Revillagigedo Archipelago, Mexico. Therya, 8(1).

Socorro Island, in the Revillagigedo Archipelago, has the highest number of endemisms of any Mexican island. It provides habitat for 117 vascular plants, 26 % of which are endemic to the island. Also endemic to the island are one reptile and eight terrestrial bird species. However, the local ecosystem has been heavily degraded by exotic mammals over the past 140 years. The feral sheep (Ovis aries) has contributed to a 30% loss in habitat based on the island’s surface area. Another serious threat is the feral cat (Felis catus), which has severely impacted the island’s bird communities and the endemic Socorro tree lizard (Urosaurus auriculatus). Together, feral sheep and cats are responsible for the extinction in the wild of the Socorro dove (Zenaida graysoni) and the Socorro Elf Owl (Micrathene whitneyi graysoni), and pose a serious threat for other vulnerable species, such as the Townsend’s shearwater (Puffinus auricularis). The feral sheep was completely eradicated in 2012, which resulted in a rapid and remarkable recovery of the local vegetation cover. The eradication of the feral cat has been a complex issue to undertake due to the large size and topographical complexity of Socorro Island. In 2011 Grupo de Ecología y Conservacion de Islas, A. C. (GECI) started a feral cat control program, which scaled up into an eradication campaign. Here we report on the progress of the eradication campaign between 2011 and 2015, and provide a first assessment of the recovery of the native fauna. Beginning in 2011, camera traps were used to estimate cat abundance. Leg-hold and lethal traps were used to capture feral cats, some of them mounted with telemetry devices that alerted when traps were activated. Native vertebrates were monitored to confirm the positive effects derived from cat control efforts. By July 2015, 413 cats were dispatched using soft leg-hold and lethal traps, with a combined effort of 22,706 trap-nights. To date (mid-2016), cat abundance has decreased significantly, with cats being completely absent for several years in different areas of the island. The abundance of the endemic Socorro Island tree lizard and terrestrial birds has increased thanks to significant progress. Completing this important conservation action requires an increase in trapping efforts and the use of detection dogs, combined with night hunting. We estimate that the eradication of the feral cat will be completed by early 2017, after which the absence confirmation phase will begin.
Reduction in the capture success (%) of feral cats in the rainy and dry seasons from 2012 to 2015.

Sunday 4 December 2016

Optimizing an indoor lifestyle for cats

Scherk, M. (2016). Optimising an indoor lifestyle for cats. Veterinary Focus, 26(2), 2-9.

Cats restricted to indoor living have a reduced risk for vehicular trauma, predation,
aggressive interactions with cats and other animals, and exposure to infectious diseases.
Indoor living is not without risks.
Not all cats can adapt readily to an indoor lifestyle, and may be at increased risk for
certain behavioral and medical problems.
All environmental and social needs must be met for successful indoor living, and
the well-being of each cat needs to be evaluated repeatedly over time.
Predictability, familiarity, routine and having a sense of control are key factors in
reducing stress.
Offering outdoor access does not compensate if the cat has poor conditions indoors.

Trophic overlap between wolves and free-ranging wolf× dog hybrids

Bassi, E., Canu, A., Firmo, I., Mattioli, L., Scandura, M., & Apollonio, M. (2017). Trophic overlap between wolves and free-ranging wolf× dog hybrids in the Apennine Mountains, Italy. Global Ecology and Conservation, 9, 39-49.

Hybridization between wolves (Canis lupus) and domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) can represent a threat to wild populations via genetic introgression and ecological competition. Therefore understanding the ecological role of hybrids may be crucial for developing appropriate conservation strategies.

The Italian wolf population has a peculiar genetic composition due to a long-lasting geographic isolation. Nowadays, however, its genetic integrity is threatened by the spread of canine genes as a result of the hybridization with stray dogs in the wild.

The aim of the present study was to gain insights into the ecological role of free-ranging wolf–dog hybrids by investigating their winter food habits in comparison with wolves in a mountain area of Central Italy. Levels of genetic introgression from the dogs were assessed in two adjacent areas occupied by up to five different packs by analyzing non-invasive samples and carcasses collected therein with a set of uniparental and bi-parental molecular markers.

The obtained results enabled us to classify the two areas as ‘hybrid’ and ‘wolf’ areas based on their level of genetic introgression.

Trophic niche and similarity/dissimilarity analyses did not detect significant difference in the diet between the two areas: in both of them, wild boar was the main prey, followed by roe deer. Furthermore, the same age/body mass classes of the two ungulates were selected by wolves and hybrids. Our findings confirmed wolf–dog hybrids as potential competitors for wolves. Further studies on other aspects of their biology and ecology are recommended in order to better estimate the impact of hybridization on natural wolf populations.

Thursday 1 December 2016

Drons to deliver baits to control feral

Johnston, M., McCaldin, G., & Rieker, A. (2016). Assessing the availability of aerially delivered baits to feral cats through rainforest canopy using unmanned aircraft. Journal of Unmanned Vehicle Systems, 4(4), 276-281.
At least eight threatened wildlife species are at direct risk from predation by cats (Felis catus) on Christmas Island (Director of National Parks. 2014. Christmas Island biodiversity conservation plan. Canberra. Australia: Department of the Environment.). A range of strategies are now being used to manage cats across the island, including responsible ownership methods for domestic cats and lethal control tools to remove feral cats outside the township area. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were used to drop non-toxic baits through the rainforest canopy to assess whether aerial baiting could be undertaken successfully on the island. Ground crews located 88% of baits, indicating that sufficient baits would be accessible to feral cats if broad-scale aerial baiting was to be undertaken in the future.
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