How dogs are helping cat conservation

Sniffer dogs are tracking the movements of wild felines.

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Researchers have been tracking the movements of four different cat populations – jaguars, pumas, oncillas and ocelots – and bush dogs in Argentina.

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What makes the study particularly unique is the use of the sniffer dogs to detect the scat (droppings) of the animals being studied.

Once scat areas were identified and analysed in a lab, a clear path, or ‘corridor’ used by the different carnivores could be deciphered.

“The findings illustrate the benefit of using multiple species versus a single species to develop corridors,” says Dr Karen DeMatteo, lead author of the paper and research scientist at Washington University is St Louis.

“Using only the highly restricted jaguar to develop the corridor would mean that the potential distributions of the other four carnivores would be restricted and decreased by as much as 30 per cent.”

The different species have overlapping habitat requirements, allowing researchers to develop corridor models that would provide the maximum habitat connectivity while minimising the cost and effect on private land.

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Unfortunately, the dogs did not get a credit in the authors’ acknowledgements.