Low population density of a tropical forest carnivore, Cryptoprocta ferox: implications for protected areas management

C. E. Hawkins, Paul Adrian Racey

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    30 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    The widespread geographical distributions of mammalian carnivores such as the Carnivora and the Dasyuridae have often been erroneously equated with abundance. Their low densities and high demands on habitat area can render mammalian carnivores especially vulnerable to habitat fragmentation and destruction. The fossa Cryptoprocta ferox (Viverridae) is a mammalian carnivore threatened by the rapid loss of Madagascar's forests, to which it is endemic. A 3-year mark-recapture studv, comprising four censuses, generated an estimate of fossa population density at 0.18 adults km(-2), or 0.26 individuals km(-2). This was supported by a similar estimate from home range data. The fossa is thought to be unusually common in the study area, yet the estimated densitv was lower than that predicted for a typical tropical carnivorous mammal of the body mass of a fossa. Ecologists are frequently under pressure to provide estimates of local and global population numbers of their study species; we discuss the numerous factors that limit our ability to do this on the basis of a single population estimate. Nonetheless, our findings are sufficient to suggest that none of Madagascar's 46 protected areas supports a viable population of fossas, indicating a demand for corridors and enlarged reserves to ensure this species' long-term survival. Loss of the top predator can have a knock-on effect on an ecosystem. The findings indicate that, to maintain intact tropical forest ecosystems, it may be essential to consider the requirements of their often little-known mammalian carnivores. These requirements could be far greater than previously assumed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)35-43
    Number of pages8
    JournalOryx
    Volume39
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2005

    Keywords

    • carnivore conservation
    • Cryptoprocta ferox
    • fossa
    • habitat fragmentation
    • Madagascar
    • mark-recapture
    • population density
    • protected areas
    • tropical
    • CAPTURE-RECAPTURE DATA
    • NATIONAL-PARK
    • RAIN-FOREST
    • WESTERN MADAGASCAR
    • TROPHIC CASCADES
    • EXTINCTION DEBT
    • DEFORESTATION
    • MODEL
    • CONSERVATION
    • COMPETITION

    Cite this

    Low population density of a tropical forest carnivore, Cryptoprocta ferox: implications for protected areas management. / Hawkins, C. E.; Racey, Paul Adrian.

    In: Oryx, Vol. 39, 2005, p. 35-43.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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    AB - The widespread geographical distributions of mammalian carnivores such as the Carnivora and the Dasyuridae have often been erroneously equated with abundance. Their low densities and high demands on habitat area can render mammalian carnivores especially vulnerable to habitat fragmentation and destruction. The fossa Cryptoprocta ferox (Viverridae) is a mammalian carnivore threatened by the rapid loss of Madagascar's forests, to which it is endemic. A 3-year mark-recapture studv, comprising four censuses, generated an estimate of fossa population density at 0.18 adults km(-2), or 0.26 individuals km(-2). This was supported by a similar estimate from home range data. The fossa is thought to be unusually common in the study area, yet the estimated densitv was lower than that predicted for a typical tropical carnivorous mammal of the body mass of a fossa. Ecologists are frequently under pressure to provide estimates of local and global population numbers of their study species; we discuss the numerous factors that limit our ability to do this on the basis of a single population estimate. Nonetheless, our findings are sufficient to suggest that none of Madagascar's 46 protected areas supports a viable population of fossas, indicating a demand for corridors and enlarged reserves to ensure this species' long-term survival. Loss of the top predator can have a knock-on effect on an ecosystem. The findings indicate that, to maintain intact tropical forest ecosystems, it may be essential to consider the requirements of their often little-known mammalian carnivores. These requirements could be far greater than previously assumed.

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