A recent study on the status of the biodiversity of forests in southern Myanmar found that large carnivores, tigers, leopards and dholes, as well as their major prey species, are under threat. Industrial crops have fragmented forestry. The
solution to maintaining land interconnectedness has not been possible due to a lack of government policies, difficulties to draw borders and disagreements between authorities and local communities.
Southern Myanmar has suffered from a decline in biodiversity like much of the globe. The effect of anthropogenic pressures is threatening this once richly diverse landscape. Unfortunately, declines in biodiversity are higher in South East
Asia in the tropical regions.
The Lenya reserved forest is part of the Tanintharyi region, making this one of the largest continuous forests in South East Asia. Despite protections since 2004, failures of management and implementation meant it was eventually dropped in
A recent study looks directly at the Tiger (Panthera tigris) which has joined the ICUN red list as a result of poaching and prey loss, Leopards (Panthera pardus) that now only remain in two landscapes within Myanmar and the
Dhole (Cuon alpinus) whose distribution is unclear.
These large carnivores are incredibly important as they are usually indicators of ecosystem health, suggesting their prey and the food of their prey are numerous enough to support the wider ecosystem needs. Any removal or addition of top
predators can propagate down food webs causing patterns of abundance or decline of the biomass among the next trophic level (Mulder et al., 2012).
‘A recent study looks directly at the Tiger (Panthera tigris) which has joined the ICUN red list as a result of poaching and prey loss.’
The predominate prey of these large Carnivores includes the wild pig (Sus scrofa), Muntjac (Muntiacus spp.), Sambar (Rusa unicolor), Gaur (Bos gaurus) and the Banteng (Bos javanicus).
Using infrared camera trap data that spanned a period from 2016 to 2018, they counted the occurrence of large predators and prey to better understand factors such as human disturbance, landscape variability and prey distribution.
The results found tigers are more abundant with an increase in their key prey Gaur and areas furthest from villages. Leopards have little influence on prey distribution, possibly due to their broad diet of arboreal primates, which the study
did not account for.
Both predators were positively associated with dense forest areas, possibly due to the higher mammal communities in these primary forests.
These findings indicate that further conservation efforts target the predators we are enamoured with and the large ungulates they predate upon, including supporting habitat management programmes. The long-term survival of carnivores here is
linked intrinsically to the presence of their prey species and wider habitat management, low prey abundance is likely to continue to be an issue without the recovery efforts of large ungulates.
‘... predators were positively associated with dense forest areas.’
The study detected hunting in roughly 4.4% of the detections, including extensive snaring predominately in the south of the study area and recreational hunting has yet to be quantified. A formal conservation management programme needs to be
established to address threats of forest clearance and illegal hunting of threatened species.
It is clear that the Lenya forest is vital for the survival of enigmatic species like the tiger, leopard and dhole. The latter are categorised as ‘Endangered’ in the IUCN Red List- despite this status, little is known about dholes. The
social animals live in packs of 3 to 20 adults and can be found across Asia.
Dholes rely on tall grass to prey, which may be why dholes seem positively impacted by the total number of prey but there was no clear association with forest type of landscape variability. Previous studies (Charaspet et al., 2019, Karanth
& Sunqist., 1995) have found dholes prefer large prey like Sambar deer.
Still, this study found they predate on smaller-hooved mammals potentially indicating a decline in their populations. However, hunting has been put forward as another cause of this decline.
‘…dholes prefer large prey like Sambar deer.’
To study results identified the lack of protection of prey animals as a serious threat to the survival of carnivores, tigers, leopards and dholes. The gaur is an important prey associated with an increase in the tiger population, but
poaching of these cats is still an ongoing concern. Monitoring and conservation management are needed.
Featured Image: Davidvraju / AdrianRanasinghe / Charles J. Sharp | Wikimedia Commons
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Mulder, C., Boit, A., Mori, S., Vonk, J.A., Dyer, et al. (2012) Distributional (in) congruence of biodiversity–ecosystem functioning. In Advances in ecological research,
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