Some Aspects of Carnivore Ecology And Epldemiology in the Bale Mountains, Ethiopia

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Addis Ababa University


The generalist pathogens of carnivores particularly rabies and canme distemper caused significant mortality to an endangered carnivore, Ethiopian wolf (Callis simellsis), in the Bale Mountains, Ethiopia. For a full understanding of the epidemiology of these pathogens, the ecology and behaviour of both the hosts and the pathogens must be known. However, appropliate data to quantify the likelihood of transmission between hosts in most ecological studies are lacking. Furthermore, when considering carnivore pathogens, the ecology and behaviour of many smaller call1ivores such as civets and mongooses are relatively unknown. Thus, there is a clear need for an intensive study of the behaviour and ecology of a guild of wild call1ivores in the Bale Mountains. Carnivore ecology and epidemiology were studied in the Bale Mountains, Ethiopia. Eight golden jackals (Callis aI/reus), five white-tailed mongooses (Ic1melllllia albicauda), one marsh mongoose (Alilax plaudillosus), one African civet (Civitictis civetta) and one common genet (Gelletta gelletta) were radio-tracked from November 1998 to March 2001. A total of 950 animal locations were obtained. The average home range size for female jackals was 36 kru2 and for males 35 kru2 , range from 7.87 to 64.76 kru2 • The home range size for adult males' white-tailed mongooses averaged 3 kru2 , range from 1.11 to 4.27 kru2 , and the adult female used an area of 2.63 knl. The only tracked marsh mongoose, African civet and common genet nsed an area of 3.93, 11.06 and 1.71 km2 respectively. Home ranges overlapped greatly both within and between species although ten'itoriality among male whitetailed mongooses was demonstrated. Golden jackals and white-tailed mongooses were observed most of the time alone. Male -female pairs were the most tiequently observed social groups in both species. Inter-specific interaction among wild call1ivores, and between wild call1ivores and domestic dogs were observed. The frequency of contacts was higher among domestic dogs, golden jackals, white-tailed mongooses and spotted hyaenas. The pattern of habitat use during delll1ing activity and foraging activity by the radiotracked species was different. Golden jackals used densely covered forests and bushes as denning sites where as they used all habitats during foraging. White-tailed mongooses used underground dens and empty houses for resting but the species intensified its foraging activity in grasslands. The marsh mongoose exclusively used underground dens along the riverbank as denning sites whereas it used riverside habitats as foraging areas. The civet exclusively rested in dense bushes where as the genet largely found resting in trees. Scavenging by the civet and the genet was frequently observed. The microhabitats were particularly important both as denning sites and foraging areas for most species, except for the genet and civet, which exhibited a similar pattern of use of microhabitats and area habitats. The mean density of golden jackals in the highlands and lowlands around the Bale Mountains National Park were the same (1.4 indiv. Ikm2 ). The mean density of domestic dogs was 6.39 and 2.15 individuals/km2 in the highlands and lowlands respectively. The population abundance of golden jackals, spotted hyaena and white-tailed mongoose was relatively high. Analysis of Sera sampled from wild carnivores around the Bale Mountains National Park from 1998-1999 suggests that the carnivore species had been exposed to canine viruses. Large proportion of the sampled golden jackals and Ethiopian wolves were seropositive to canine distemper, canine adenovirus and canine parvovirus. The study established that there is a potential for disease transmission between wild carnivores, and from domestic dogs to wild carnivores.