Effects of habitat alteration and disturbance by humans and exotic species on fosa Cryptoprocta ferox occupancy in Madagascar's deciduous forests
Merson SD., Dollar LJ., Tan CKW., Macdonald DW.
Copyright © Fauna & Flora International 2019. Anthropogenic habitat alteration and invasive species are threatening carnivores globally. Understanding the impact of these factors is critical for creating localized, effective conservation programmes. Madagascar's Eupleridae have been described as the least studied and most threatened group of carnivores. We investigated the effects of habitat degradation and the presence of people and exotic species on the modelled occupancy of the endemic fosa Cryptoprocta ferox, conducting camera-trap surveys in two western deciduous forests, Ankarafantsika National Park and Andranomena Special Reserve. Our results indicated no clear patterns between habitat degradation and fosa occupancy but a strong negative association between cats Felis sp. and fosas. Cat occupancy was negatively associated with birds and positively associated with contiguous forest and narrow trails. In contrast, dog Canis lupus familiaris occupancy was best predicted by wide trails, degraded forest and exotic civets. Our results suggest fosas are capable of traversing degraded landscapes and, in the short term, are resilient to contiguous forest disturbance. However, high occupancy of cats and dogs in the landscape leads to resource competition through prey exploitation and interference, increasing the risk of transmission of potentially fatal diseases. Management strategies for exotic carnivores should be considered, to reduce the widespread predation of endemic species and the transmission of disease.