In This Issue
- Big Cats Thrive in STRI Open Laboratory
- Tracking Wild Dogs in South Africa
- Current Literature
Scientists on the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute's (STRI's) Barro Colorado Island have been monitoring ocelots in the wild to pursue basic eco-physiological, applied management, and conservation questions that are currently beyond scientific reach. In August 2002, STRI's Automated Telemetry Project staff captured an ocelot in one of the island's several wooden traps. They put him to sleep for a few minutes to measure, weigh, and register him, and to install a collar radio transmitter that lets them know where he is, and when he interacts with other animals, kills and eats prey, drinks water, etc. The scientists named the ocelot Bobby Comillos for his canine teeth, and then released him back into the wild. After a year, Bobby was recaptured, and weighed in at 18.4 kg-a significant increase over his 15.8 kg record. Bobby is now the largest ocelot ever recorded in the wild in the Americas, and is one of 11 ocelots the project has successfully monitored using collared radios.
Free-living populations of African wild dogs have declined markedly over the past several decades to fewer than 5,000 individuals. They are not alone. Today, many carnivore species are decreasing in number, the victims of habitat fragmentation, competition with other carnivores, contact with humans, and disease.
For African wild dogs specifically, their populations are diminishing mainly because of competition with other large carnivores. Now the conservation community is interested in re-establishing populations of this endangered predator through targeted reintroductions into the wild. Researchers from the Smithsonian National Zoological Park (NZP) and its Conservation and Research Center are working in collaboration with South African scientists and wildlife managers to monitor the movements, behavior, physiology, and health of African wild dogs and their two major competitors: lions and spotted hyenas. Located in South Africa, this initiative is called the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Predator Project.
Currently, 31 wild dogs are being monitored in three packs. The Hluhluwe pack is the largest, with 17 dogs. Two of the alpha females (each pack has one dominant female) each spent one month concealed in underground dens with new litters of pups, but are currently traveling and hunting again with the rest of the pack. The Hluhluwe pack's den is hidden deep within dense vegetation, but the more open habitat around the Umfolozi pack's den has allowed the viewing of a strong and healthy litter of 10 new pups.
Coordinated by NZP's postdoctoral researcher Micaela Szykman, the project is designed to collect information in a novel way-by integrating NZP scientists' expertise in ecology, animal behavior, physiology, and health. Research methods include tracking radio-collared lions, hyenas, and wild dogs; noninvasive fecal hormone monitoring; mapping and contrasting home ranges of each species; and evaluating the health and well-being of reintroduced wild dogs in a competitive environment.
With regard to the dogs, noninvasive endocrine monitoring techniques, in combination with intensive behavioral and ecological monitoring, is expected to yield insight into how the stress of reintroduction affects their reproductive fitness, health, and survival. The research will take several years before results are conclusive.
The Canon National Parks Science Scholars Program is pleased to announce its 2004 competitions. The program is a collaboration among Canon U.S.A., Inc., the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the US National Park Service. Thanks to a generous commitment by Canon U.S.A., Inc., the program will be awarding eight $78,000 scholarships to Ph.D. students throughout the Americas to conduct research critical to conserving the national parks of the region. Research projects in the biological, physical, social and cultural sciences are eligible, as well as projects in a new category-technological innovation in support of conservation science. Applications must be received by 3 May 2004. For further information and an Application Guide, please visit <http://www.nature.nps.gov/canonscholarships/>.
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