Elusive bush dog widespread in Panama

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New York, Jan 20 (IANS) The bush dogs, one of the most enigmatic of the world’s canid species and classified as “near-threatened” globally by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, are proliferating in Panama, new data shows.

The findings of the data from photos taken by automated camera traps in remote areas of the central American country were reported in a paper published in the journal Canid Biology & Conservation.

“The bush dog is one of the rarest species that we photograph,” said one of the researchers Ricardo Moreno from Yaguara Panamá-Sociedad Panamena de Biologia in Panama.

Bush dog populations have declined by up to 25 percent in the past 12 years, according to an estimate by the International Union for Conservation of Nature that has classified it as “near-threatened” globally.

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However, unlike other some other carnivores in Panama, such as jaguar, puma and coyote, bush dogs do not appear to be directly persecuted by humans.

The main threats that the canid specie faces are habitat loss and encroachment, the study noted.

Bush dogs are short-legged and stubby, standing only about a foot tall at the shoulder.

They live mainly in tropical forests but have also been recorded in fragmented and altered habitats.

Hunting in packs of up to 10 animals, bush dogs give high-pitched whines to maintain contact and yap like puppies when they chase their prey.

They feed mostly on large forest rodents like agoutis and pacas. Fierce for their size, a pack of six once was seen chasing a tapir, an animal almost 20 times a bush dog’s weight. Although active by day, bush dogs are remarkably hard to see and are very rarely reported even where they are known to occur.

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Bush dogs are seldom seen throughout their range in Central and South America and Panama is the only country in Central America where the specie is known to occur, aside from a few unconfirmed sightings in easternmost Costa Rica near the Panamanian border.

“We think that it will soon cross the border into Costa Rica,” Moreno said.

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