Biology and conservation of the maned wolf in the Águas Emendadas Ecological Station
The maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) is the largest canid of South America Characteristic of open habitats, the species has suffered from the transformation of the fields into agricultural areas and today, despite being widely distributed, has to deal with the difficulties living in fragmented landscapes. Most of the protected areas of the Cerrado biome are small and unlikely to maintain a healthy population of the species. Thus, it is necessary to understand the ecology and behaviour of maned wolves in these small protected areas, to better conserve the species.
This project examined the diet, movement patterns, genetic variability and main risk factors for the maned wolf population of a small protected area of the Cerrado, the Ecological Station of Águas Emendadas, Distrito Federal.
Maned wolves occupy large home ranges, requiring large areas of Cerrado to maintain a viable population. The large size of the home ranges and territorial behaviour of the species precludes large population densities, and it has been estimated that a maximum of five couples are living in the station. This number is small to maintain a viable population in the long term. Also due to their requirements for a large area, individual wolves are constantly forced to leave the station to meet their ecological needs, which makes them susceptible to various risks, such as road kill and hunting. Therefore, one of the main threats to the conservation of this population of maned wolves that was identified was the isolation of the station from other protected areas, thereby hindering the genetic exchange with other populations and also reproduction of closely related individuals, which can cause genetic defects in offspring and a decreased reproductive rate. It is therefore important that there is exchange of individuals with other areas through dispersal corridors. Hunting, to control predation of hens, is another major threat, despite the project’s results which show that the consumption of chickens by wolves is rare and occasional, and does not justifying their reputation as a “chicken eater.” But the main cause of mortality was road kills. During 36 months a total of 13 wolves were found dead on roads surrounding the park. To minimize this problem, Pró-Carnívoros is working together with federal ministries, the Department of Environment and Water Resources, the DER and DENIT, to reduce the speed limit along the stretch of road, put speed reducers and information signs (see project “Impact of highways in the Ecological Station of Water Chain”).
Support: O Boticario Foundation for Nature Protection / MacArthur Foundation, World Wide Fund for Nature – WWF Brazil, Universidade de Brasília / CENARGEN-EMBRAPA. This project was part of the doctoral thesis of Flávio Rodrigues, at the Universidade Estadual de Campinas – UNICAMP.
Project coordinator and executor:
Flávio Henrique Guimarães Rodrigues