Karen DeMatteo – WildCare Institute at the Saint Louis Zoo/Washington University in St. Louis (USA)
Fernanda Michalski – Universidad Federal do Amapá/Pró-Carnivoros (Brazil)
Amazonian canids include four key species. The Short-eared dog, Atelocynus microtis is found in scattered sites from Colombia to Bolivia and Ecuador to Brazil. The Crab-eating fox, Cerdocyon thous is relatively common throughout its range from Columbia and southern Venezuela in the north to Paraguay, Uruguay and northern Argentina in the South. The Bush Dog, Speothos venaticus occurs in eastern Central America and northern South America, south to Paraguay and north-eastern Argentina. Isolated subpopulations may also still occur in Ecuador and Colombia, west of the Andes. Finally th Hoary fox, Pseudalopex vetulus which is found in south-central Brazil (along with some sightings from the north of the country). Other Pseudalopex species that occur at the edges of the Amazon region are also considered by the working group since they need additional research.
Each of the species included in this list are found in and around the Amazon region and are in need of additional research. This includes Pseudalopex spp., which typically lacks representation through other groups.
short-eared dog - Atelocynus microtis
© Pitman and Swarner
crab-eating fox - Cerdocyon thous
© Adriano Gambarini
bush dog - Speothos venaticus
© Gerald L. Zuercher
Pseudalopex spp. – South American foxes
hoary fox (Pseudalopex vetulus)
© Adriano Gambarini
pampas fox (Pseudalopex gymnocercus)
© Marcelo Dolsan
sechuran fox (Pseudalopex sechura)
© Daniel Ascensios
Views of what are currently the main issues affecting Amazonian canids:
Amazonian canids are similar to many carnivores worldwide whose long-term survival is threatened by a variety of direct and indirect threats. While habitat loss and fragmentation are threats to wildlife worldwide, in the Amazon region this is especially poignant with large tracts of intact habitat being cleared and used for agriculture, including soybean production. The ongoing, rapid expansion of hydroelectric developments in the Brazilian Amazon is an additional threat to carnivores, with hydroelectric dams expected to expand from 154 to 277 in the Brazilian Amazon (Castello et al. 2013). These species are also threatened when their prey abundance is reduced through illegal hunting and predation by domestic dogs. The latter can also be a direct threat to these species, especially in the case of bush dogs that often inhabit old dens of their prey. Finally, one of the most poorly understood threats but one that is inevitably increasing as wildlife increase their proximity to human populations is the increased risk of contracting lethal diseases from domestic dogs.
Top issues the Amazonian Canid Working Group would like to prioritise in the near future:
An online network of interested researchers, managers, educators, of experts working in the Amazonian region and with a strong interest in these canids is needed to coordinate actions or activities directed at the conservation of these species. By bringing together these interested persons, we can form a network that can help generate specific questions, research projects, and goals that we should address for each species. Included in these efforts would be identifying students, graduate programs, and funding agencies that could support these efforts. Based on the discussions and comments from these participants, we can prioritize a list from our suggested research and conservation activities. In addition, we can develop specific and regional education initiatives that can be aimed at educating the public about these species, their importance in the ecosystem, and the threats they are facing. The development of a website that can be used to integrate the network of people is vital to keep strong interest and to keep planned activities updates and informed to all participants.
Potential research or conservation activities relevant to Amazonian canids:
While the bush dog and short-eared dog are not actively persecuted, they are both Near Threatened canids considered rare throughout their distribution and facing a suite of threats that result in a decreasing population trend. A recent evaluation of both of these species by the IUCN Red List indicates that the lack of specific numbers and details from the field mean that they are in conservation limbo with a need for new data across their ranges. Both species would benefit from field studies directed at documenting specifics on population numbers, variation in ecological requirements vary with habitat integrity, and direct effects of domestic dog diseases, as these data would allow their conservation status to be fully evaluated and modelled across their range.
Among the Amazonian canids the crab-eating fox is unique as a species of Least Concern, common across its range, little specific protective legislation, and stable populations; however, no specific populations statistics exist and the last evaluation of its conservation status is 7 years old. Unlike the bush dog and short-eared dog, it is considered a pest species and actively persecuted by local persons. While it is reported to readily adjust to habitat conversion and their prey are not affected by illegal hunting, it is a species where proximity to human populations increases the risk of exposure to lethal diseases from domestic dog. While field studies to enumerate population numbers and confirm population trends, the species would benefit most from an education campaigned aimed at identifying their niche and importance in the ecosystem. Specific numbers on the species, confirmation of population trends, and a better understanding of the threats facing the species would allow for a re-evaluation of it conservation status.
Atelocynus microtis – short-eared dog
Cerdocyon thous – crab-eating fox
Speothos venaticus – bush dog
Pseudalopex spp. – South American foxes
Chrysocyon brachyurus – maned wolf