Biologists have captured photos of elusive, rare bush dogs in a remote portion of Panama.
The animals showed up as researchers from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) were using the cameras as part of a study on large mammals, including Jaguars.
A new study in the journal Canid Biology & Conservation is currently documenting the bush dog’s appearance on camera. Study co-author Ricardo Moreno from the STRI said in a press release that this is one of the rarest species they have photographed.
“Camera-trap photos taken for the first time in Panama in 2012 and 2015,” the paper states, “together with the new sightings, confirm the species’ broad and continuous distribution along the Panamanian Isthmus.”
Researchers expect the species to soon cross the border into Costa Rica, though Panama is the only Central American country where the species are known to live. Given that the bush dogs are so hard to spot, Moreno and his research team said stronger measures should be undertaken in order to accurately assess population trends for the animals in Panama. The increasing reduction of forest habitat and the depletion of prey species might be making things harder for the bush dogs in the region, researchers explained.
Scientifically known as Speothos venaticus, the small canids are 1 foot tall (at the shoulder) and run in packs of up to 10. The species live particularly in tropical forests and it mainly eat rodents and sometimes armadillo.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) believes the species are widespread from extreme northern Central America and northern South America south to Paraguay and northeastern Argentina.
However, the organization also describes the creature as “naturally rare” throughout that area, since they are very difficult to locate in the wild and therefore it is not an easy work to estimate population trends. The IUCN classifies bush dogs as “near threatened”.
Most of what is known about bush dogs’ physical characteristics and behavior has been discovered thanks to the study of captive populations.
But scientists are having a hard time at trying to protect the animals against population decline due to their elusiveness. Bush dogs are not being directly persecuted by humans like other species, such as pumas and jaguars, but they are still experiencing severe population decline from habitat loss.
About 15 percent of forests in Panama have cut down from 1990 to 2000. Potential diseases transmitted by domestic dogs in the area and loss of prey caused by hunting by humans are also posing a threat for the Speothos venaticus.
Source: Discovery News