Effectiveness of Scat-Detection Dogs in Determining Species Presence in a Tropical Savanna Landscape

Most protected areas are too small to sustain populations of wide-ranging mammals; thus, identification and conservation of high-quality habitat for those animals outside parks is often a high priority, particularly for regions where extensive land conversion is occurring. This is the case in the vicinity of Emas National Park, a small protected area in the Brazilian Cerrado. Over the last 40 years the native vegetation surrounding the park has been converted to agriculture, but the region still supports virtually all of the animals native to the area. We determined the effectiveness of scat-detection dogs in detecting presence of five species of mammals threatened with extinction by habitat loss: maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), puma (Puma concolor), jaguar (Panthera onca), giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), and giant armadillo (Priodontes maximus). The probability of scat detection varied among the five species and among survey quadrats of different size, but was consistent across team, season, and year. The probability of occurrence, determined from the presence of scat, in a randomly selected site within the study area ranged from 0.14 for jaguars, which occur primarily in the forested areas of the park, to 0.91 for maned wolves, the most widely distributed species in our study area. Most occurrences of giant armadillos in the park were in open grasslands, but in the agricultural matrix they tended to occur in riparian woodlands. At least one target species occurred in every survey quadrat, and giant armadillos, jaguars, and maned wolves were more likely to be present in quadrats located inside than outside the park. The effort required for detection of scats was highest for the two felids. We were able to detect the presence for each of five wide-ranging species inside and outside the park and to assign occurrence probabilities to specific survey sites. Thus, scat dogs provide an effective survey tool for rare species even when accurate detection likelihoods are required. We believe the way we used scat-detection dogs to determine the presence of species can be applied to the detection of other mammalian species in other ecosystems.

Secondary title Conservation Biology
Author VYNNE, C., SKALSKI, J. R., MACHADO, R. B., GROOM, M. J., JÁCOMO, A. T., MARINHO-FILHO, J., NETO, M. B. R., POMILLA, C., SILVEIRA, L., SMITH, H. and WASSER, S. K.
Date 01/10/2010
Year 2010
ISBN/ISSN doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2010.01581.x
Links https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1523-1739.2010.01581.x/abstract