Researchers estimate range of movement of Asiatic wild dogs

Researchers estimate range of movement of Asiatic wild dogs

For the first time, researchers have estimated the range of movement of Asiatic wild dogs using camera-traps in the forests of the Western Ghats.

The researchers were led by scientists from Wildlife Conservation Society India Programme, Centre for Wildlife Studies (Bangalore) and University of Florida, USA.

"The study, based on intensive camera-trap surveys conducted in Nagarahole and Wayanad wildlife reserves in the Western Ghats, was part of a long-term project on tiger population dynamics in the region," a Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) statement said.

For the first time in India, their home-range size (roughly 85 sq km) has been estimated based on non-invasive camera-trap surveys, it said.

From November 2014 to January 2015 in a span of 45 days, the researchers set-up and monitored camera traps which yielded incidental photographic captures of these dogs which are also called dholes.

Unlike tigers or leopards, individual dholes cannot be uniquely identified from camera-trap photographs as they lack pelage patterns or natural body markings.

Yet the researchers were able to identify two individuals in a pack of five animals, based on distinct markings on their pelage, enabling them to map locations of the pack during the survey period.

"Typically, radio-telemetry is used to obtain information on home-range sizes of large carnivores such as dhole. This is expensive and requires careful handling of animals.

"In contrast, our estimates are generated through innovative use of non-invasive and relatively inexpensive camera-trap pictures," said Arjun Srivathsa, lead author of the study and a doctoral student at the University of Florida.

Dholes are among the least studied large carnivores in the world and unlike many other social carnivores, dholes occur at low densities in dense tropical forests.

They are wary, difficult to capture and have radio-collar, posing several logistical challenges in the field for tracking their movements or studying their behaviour.

The study appeared in the January issue of the international journal of Canid Biology and Conservation.

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