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Asiatic Wild Dogs or ‘dholes’ in Western Ghats Reserves.

A new study led by scientists from Wildlife Conservation Society-India Programme, Centre for Wildlife Studies (Bangalore), and University of Florida, USA, presents the first home-range size estimate of Asiatic wild dogs or ‘dholes’ based on camera trap surveys. The study, based on intensive camera-trap surveys conducted in Nagarahole and Wayanad wildlife reserves in the Western Ghats India, was part of a long-term project on tiger population dynamics in the region.

From November 2014 to January 2015 (45 days), the researcher’s set-up and monitored camera traps which yielded incidental photographic captures of dholes or Asiatic wild dogs. Unlike tigers or leopards, individual Asiatic wild dogs or dholes cannot be uniquely identified from camera-trap photographs because they do not have 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.

  • Researchers present for the first time using camera-traps, home-range size of Asiatic wild dogs or dholes
  • Study is based on intensive camera-trap surveys in the Western Ghat forests
  • Researchers track two marked individuals and record their movement in these forests
dhole

Photo Courtesy- Ullas Karnath (Tracking Dholes)

Arjun Srivathsa, lead author of the study and who is a doctoral student at the University of Florida said, “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”.

He added, “Dholes are the least studied large carnivores in the world. Unlike many other social carnivores, dholes occur at low densities in dense tropical forests. They are wary, difficult to capture and radio-collar, and thereby pose several logistical challenges in the field for tracking their movements or studying their behavior. For the first time in India, their home-range size (roughly 85 sq. km) has been estimated based on non-invasive camera-trap surveys”

The study first appeared in the January issue of the international journal Canid Biology and Conservation. Authors: Arjun Srivathsa (Centre for Wildlife Studies, Wildlife Conservation Society-India Programme and University of Florida, USA), Dr. N. Samba Kumar (Centre for Wildlife Studies and Wildlife Conservation Society-India Program) and Dr. K. Ullas Karanth (Centre for Wildlife Studies, India and Wildlife Conservation Society, New York).

Endnote

Recent assessments suggest that 900-2,100 mature dholes or Asiatic Wild dogs may survive globally. Despite being listed as ‘Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List (Kamler et al. 2015), dholes remain one of the least studied species among large, social carnivores. In India, dholes have been extirpated from 60 per cent of their former range in the last 100 years, due to human persecution and habitat loss (Karanth et al. 2010). The Western Ghats landscape of India is among the few regions that still supports high densities of the species (Karanth et al. 2009, Srivathsa et al. 2014).

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