Project Wolves of the Canastra
The Wolves of the Canastra project (behavioral biology and conservation of the maned wolf Chrysocyon brachyurus in the Cerrado of Minas Gerais state) was initiated in January 2004, involving 10 institutions led by the Institute for Conservation of Neotropical Carnivores (Pró-Carnívoros) and the National Center for Predators (CENAP-ICMBio). Initially the research involved the maned wolf as a model species to promote conservation of regional biodiversity. But the program has expanded in order to address other environmental issues related to society and assessing the relationship of farmers with the environment. One advantage of the project from its inception is its interdisciplinary approach, covering various interrelated issues, including: behaviour, ecology, health, genetics, breeding and education.
With regards to behaviour and ecology, data were obtained on the size and overlap of home ranges and the relationship with the kinship of individuals, and the relationship between food availability and dietary patterns amongst others. The project has already captured 49 individuals from 283 capture attempts, and obtained samples from six more. Forty-two animals were fitted with radio transmitters, four of which had GPS transmitters.
Another goal is mitigation of the potential causes of illness in maned wolves. The first stage of the project (2004-2007) was an assessment of haematological and biochemical status of maned wolves to compare the health of wolves with different degrees of human disturbance, and also to obtain a profile for a variety of serological parasites in populations of domestic dogs and maned wolves. This information will enable us to determine if domestic dogs serve as a potential reservoir of parasites for maned wolves and if the wolves have been exposed to these parasites. In these surveys, we found a high prevalence of some of these parasites in both populations and that some indicators of health are significantly compromised in wolves that live with higher human pressure.
The project also monitors reproductive aspects and associated stress levels of the wolves both within the park and in the surrounding areas. We also performed the first collection of semen samples from wild maned wolves. Between 2004 and 2007, five of the females we were monitoring became pregnant and raised their offspring. The concentration of corticosteroids from the blood samples collected, suggest that stress levels may be higher in farm areas when compared to the interior of the park and its surroundings.
The community approach has gained ground within the project over the past two years based on the assessment made within the community surrounding the Serra da Canastra national park and relations between the community and this conservation unit. An important action to mobilize the population was the preparation of a book about the region that focuses on environmental, cultural and economic issues, with 30 authors from the local community (teachers, farmers, tourism professionals and others). The wolf cinema or “Cine Wolf” is another action that has already started and consists of a travelling cinema which visits schools, community centres and rural properties displaying movies and educational videos, including specific films on local reality, especially to encourage the intrinsic value of culture and local nature. We have conducted 20 sessions of “Cine Wolf”, which were assisted by over 2000 residents of Canasta.
The exchange between the project and the community is constant and aided by constant contacts between researchers and farmers during the field work (capture and radio-telemetry locations of wolves), during vaccination programs for domestic dogs (activity which has vaccinated 500 dogs in farms surrounding the park over three years), and interviews which sought to know in depth the nature of relations between farmers and the natural predators of domestic livestock, such as the maned wolf.
Altogether the project has produced two publications in scientific journals (11 more are in preparation), two graduate monographs and six M.Sc. dissertations, two books, five videos and two booklets focused on interaction with local people.
In 2009, in a regular meeting of the group of project researchers, we decided to formalize the research group with the Directory of Research Groups of CNPq, whereas, in fact, we have been a research group since 2004. Thus, the research group for “The conservation of biodiversity in mosaics of rural properties and natural areas.” was formed.
Eduardo Eizirik – Pontífícia Catholic UNiversity/RS and Pró-Carnívoros
Fabiana Lopes Rocha – Fundação Oswaldo Cruz
Flávio H. G. Rodrigues – Federal University of Minas Gerais and Pró-carnívoros
Jean Pierre Santos – Pró-carnívoros
Marcelo Ximenes A. Bizerril – University of Brasília
Nucharin Songsassen – Smithsonian Institute
Ricardo Corassa Arrais – Pró-carnívoros
Rogério Cunha de Paula – CENAP/ICMBio and Pró-carnívoros
Ronaldo Gonçalves Morato – CENAP/ICMBio and Pró-carnívoros
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
Sociedade de Pesquisa em Vida Selvagem e Educação Ambiental
Canid Specialist Group
Association of Zoos & Aquariums