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Agrociencia

versión On-line ISSN 2521-9766versión impresa ISSN 1405-3195

Agrociencia vol.52 no.4 México may./jun. 2018

 

Wildlife

Additional records of wild mammals in the forest management area: Los Ocotones, Chiapas, Mexico

Eduardo E. Espinoza-Medinilla1 

Erik J. Torres-Romero2  3  * 

L. Antonio Tarango-Arámbula2 

1 Universidad de Ciencias y Artes de Chiapas, Libramiento Norte Poniente s/n, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, 29039, México. (eduardo.espinoza@unicach.mx)

2 Postgrado en Innovación en Manejo de Recursos Naturales, Colegio de Postgraduados Campus San Luis Potosí, Iturbide 73, Salinas de Hidalgo, San Luis Potosí, 78600, México. (ejtr23@hotmail.com), (ltarango@colpos.mx)

3 Research Unit of Biodiversity (UO/CSIC/PA), Oviedo University, 33600 Mieres, Spain

Abstract

Forest exploitation is an anthropic activity that directly affects the presence of plants and animals. Los Ocotones is a forest management zone, located 36 km from Cintalapa, Chiapas, Mexico. In this zone, forest management with native vegetation and conservation of the forested cover are promoted. The aim of this study was to update the information and document the presence of wild mammals in the “Los Ocotones” (LOSOCO) forest management area. During 2010 and 2011, 15 camera traps were placed (nine single stations with one camera trap and three stations with two camera traps), separated between 500 and 1000 m, on the paths used to extract the wood and in the zones of tree stands where forest exploitation of the pine-oak forest was not practiced in LOSOCO. The total sampling effort was 5,850 trap-days, with additional records of the following wild mammal species in the forest management unit: Canis latrans, Eira barbara, Galictis vittata, Leopardus pardalis, Leopardus wiedii, Panthera onca, Puma concolor, Puma yagouaroundi, and Tapirus bairdii. Seven of these are included in the NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010 in some category of risk. The cameras allowed updating the information about terrestrial mammals. Because of its conditions, the LOSOCO management unit houses priority terrestrial mammal species for their conservation in the region.

Key words: camera traps; biological corridor; carnivores; danger species; herbivore

Introduction

The understanding of the historical and current distribution of each species is valuable to determine the biotic and abiotic factors that have affected their geographical distribution in space and time, specifically in species with lower tolerance to human pressure, and vulnerable to human impact (Prugh et al., 2008; Torres-Romero and Olalla-Tárraga, 2014). Some wild mammal species are more susceptible than others to anthropic pressures (i.e. human population density, loss and habitat fragmentation), which is frequently manifested as population isolation and sometimes reaches local or global extinction of the taxon (Cardillo et al., 2005; Prugh et al. 2008; Olalla-Tárraga et al., 2015).

Terrestrial mammal species with opportunistic and generalist behaviors can inhabit environments (i.e. pine forests, tropical forests up to deserts and scrubland), and various habitats modified by man (i.e. cultivation and livestock production areas, urban and suburban zones). These species are tolerant, adapt easily to human disturbances, and have outstanding environmental plasticity (Hidalgo-Mihart et al., 2004; Valenzuela-Galván, 2005).

The state of Chiapas, Mexico, is characterized for its great mammal biodiversity since it is home to 205 terrestrial species (Naranjo et al., 2005). This state faces significant changes in the modification of the landscape from loss and fragmentation of its forest covers, causing diverse habitats and areas with differential degree of disturbance. Forest exploitation is an anthropic activity, which can directly affect the presence of terrestrial vertebrates, such as wild mammals; some of them can tolerate and coexist with this activity, although others tend to disappear. However, in the state of Chiapas there are private plots like “Los Ocotones” that promote forest management with native vegetation to maintain the high tree cover and conserve broad forested areas, to keep the connection with other vegetation remnants of biological and ecological importance (i.e. Biosphere Reserve “El Ocote” and Biosphere Reserve “La Sepultura”). Therefore, it is relevant to document whether the zones with active forest management (i.e. Los Ocotones) can be considered as an area to record terrestrial mammal species of importance for conservation and which could connect other natural protected areas of the region. In Los Ocotones, approximately 10 thousand m3 per year of wood are extracted (Gómez-Jiménez, 20114); this rate of exploitation can have a negative differential impact on the wild flora and fauna of the region.

Because of this, understanding the presence of terrestrial vertebrates in areas with some degree of human disturbance will allow designing conservation strategies for species in environments fragmented by anthropic activities. Los Ocotones has records of tracks and sightings of wild mammals reported by Los Ocotones workers and owner. Therefore, the objective of this study was to update the information and confirm the presence of additional wild mammal species in the forest management unit Los Ocotones, where wood is extracted and management projects are implemented for the conservation of wildlife.

Materials and Methods

Study area

Los Ocotones (16° 38' 59" N and 93° 47' 59" W) occupies 2400 ha, it is 36 km from Cintalapa, Chiapas, and 50 km SE of the Biosphere Reserve La Sepultura, and NE of the Reserve El Ocote (Figura 1). The area is part of a large mass of vegetation, which is considered to be in good shape of conservation, known also as Selva Zoque. This includes the sierras such as Sierra Atravesada in Oaxaca and Sierra Madre in Chiapas, also with well-conserved vegetation areas in Mexico (Lira-Torres et al., 2012). In addition, Los Ocotones is certified by Rainforest Alliance organization for its sustainable forest management. The climate is warm-humid with annual temperature of 18 to 22 °C, May is the warmest month with 18 °C, and the annual precipitation varies from 1000 to 1800 mm (Arriaga et al., 2000). The average altitude ranges between 1,000 and 1,220 masl (INEGI, 2005). The vegetation in the plot is diverse, although the pine-oak forest, the oak-pine forest and the sub-deciduous tropical forest predominate (Rzedowski, 1978); from these, the pine forest is the one most exploited.

Figure 1 Natural areas and location of forest management unit: Los Ocotones, Chiapas, Mexico. 

Camera traps

Wildlife monitoring was implemented by the University of Sciences and Arts of Chiapas, and Los Ocotones owner. The study was carried out from February to September, 2010, and September to March, 2011. Terrestrial mammals were documented photographically with digital camera traps, type Cuddeback® (Expert 3.0; Mpx) and Moultrie® (D40 4.0; Mpx). The camera traps were programmed to take photographs during day and night, with a minute of delay between each photographic event. The photographic equipment was placed and calibrated at 50 cm from the ground, and 5 m between the ocular and the point of calibration. There were 12 monitoring stations, three of them had two cameras (camera-trap-double) and nine stations a single camera. Between every three single stations, a double camera station was installed; there were between 500 and 1000 m distance between camera stations. The cameras were installed throughout the paths used to extract the wood and in the stand areas where forest exploitation was not practiced, to decrease the probability of equipment theft and of obtaining null photographs from human activity. The information from cameras was extracted every three weeks. The cameras were rotated every two months until covering the total area of the plot. This procedure was carried out in the two sampling periods (2010 and 2011). At the end of each period the photographs were quantified, terrestrial mammal species were identified, and it was verified whether the species were included or not in some national or international conservation norms (NOM-059-SEMARNAT, 2010; CITES, 2015; UICN, 2015). The identification of species was based on the understanding of the researchers responsible for the project and through comparison with photographic records in guides of wild mammals in Mexico (Ramírez-Pulido et al., 1986).

Results and Discussion

The sampling effort totaled 5,850 trap-days and 516 photographs. Of these, 42 corresponded to the additional record of nine species of terrestrial mammals, which were not confirmed in “Los Ocotones” management unit. These included jaguar (Panthera onca), tapir (Tapirus bairdii), grison (Galictis vittata), tayra (Eira barbara), ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), margay (Leopardus wiedii), jaguarundi (Puma yagouaroundi), cougar (Puma concolor), and coyote (Canis latrans) (Table 1, Figure 2 and 3). These photographic records were compiled in a pine-oak forest between 1000 and 1200 m of altitude. In addition, the camera traps recorded other terrestrial mammal species, which had already been identified and confirmed, through tracks and sightings, by Los Ocotones workers and owner (Table 1).

Table 1 Terrestrial mammals recorded through camera traps in Los Ocotones, Chiapas, Mexico, and their conservation status, according to The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES, 2015), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN, 2015), and Mexican Official Norm NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010. The type of record indicates: new record through camera traps and confirmation by Los Ocotones workers and owner.  

Especie Frecuencia IUCN NOM-059 CITES Tipo de registro
Galictis vittata 1 Preocupación menor Amenazada III Nuevo
Canis latrans 2 Preocupación menor No Incluida Nuevo
Eira barbara 2 Preocupación menor Peligro de Extinción III Nuevo
Puma yaguaroundi 2 Preocupación menor Amenazada I Nuevo
Tapirus bairdii 2 En peligro Peligro de Extinción I Nuevo
Leopardus wiedii 4 Casi amenazado Peligro de Extinción I Nuevo
Panthera onca 7 Casi amenazado Peligro de Extinción I Nuevo
Leopardus pardalis 7 Preocupación menor Peligro de Extinción I Nuevo
Mephitis macroura 10 Preocupación menor No Incluida Confirmado
Conepatus leuconotus 14 Preocupación menor No Incluida Confirmado
Puma concolor 15 Preocupación menor No Incluida II Nuevo
Didelphis virginiana 19 Preocupación menor No Incluida Confirmado
Didelphis marsupialis 22 Preocupación menor No Incluida Confirmado
Cuniculus paca 24 Preocupación menor No Incluida Confirmado
Dasypus novemcinctus 28 Preocupación menor No Incluida Confirmado
Mazama americana 30 Preocupación menor No incluida Confirmado
Procyon lotor 30 Preocupación menor No Incluida Confirmado
Nasua narica 55 Preocupación menor No Incluida III Confirmado
Pecari tajacu 67 Preocupación menor No Incluida II Confirmado
Urocyon cinereoargenteus 85 Preocupación menor No Incluida Confirmado
Odocoileus virginianus 90 Preocupación menor No Incluida III Confirmado

Figure 2 Images of wild-feline in the forest exploitation area “Los Ocotones”, Chiapas, Mexico, obtained with camera traps. A) margay (Leopardus wiedii), B) cougar (Puma concolor), C) jaguarundi (Puma yagouaroundi), D) ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), and E) jaguar (Panthera onca). 

Figure 3 Images of terrestrial mammals in the forest management area “Los Ocotones”, Chiapas, Mexico, obtained with camera traps. A) coyote (Canis latrans), B) tapir (Tapirus bairdii), C) tayra (Eira barbara) and D) grison (Galictis vittata). 

The camera traps are a non-invasive and efficient tool to record nocturnal animals, elusive and of difficult visualization (Torres-Romero et al., 2017). Information about ecologic, biologic, and behavioral aspects of the species is also obtained with the cameras (Maffei et al., 2002). In this study, the cameras allowed confirming the presence of nine species of mammals, of which seven are in the category of risk, as endangered or threatened (NOM-059-SEMARNAT, 2010).

Although the effects of human activity on biodiversity (i.e. gradual reduction of the distribution area, hunting and illegal traffic, fragmentation and habitat loss) are perceptible in temporal and spatial scales (Cardillo et al. 2005; Torres-Romero and Olalla-Tárraga, 2014 y 2015), this study contributed the first photographic records that evidence the presence of nine species of wild mammals in Los Ocotones. Therefore, despite this small area is being subject to anthropic pressures of forest exploitation, it is still adequate for the persistence of species with spatial requirements. In addition, the area can be considered a biological corridor connecting other forests with state interest, such as the Biosphere Reserves El Ocote and La Sepultura in Chiapas, Los Chimalapas in Oaxaca, and the region of Uxpanapa in Veracruz, recognized for their importance for the conservation of regional biodiversity.

Therefore, the conservation of biological corridors, such as Los Ocotones, is essential for maintaining the connectivity between the ends and avoiding the population isolation of the species (Grigione et al., 2009; Álvarez-Icaza, 2013). Thus, the following stands out:

  • 1) The presence of tapir, jaguar, ocelot, jaguarondi, margay, grison and tayra, all mammals cataloged as at risk, so their hunting is prohibited in Mexico. Their presence offers opportunities for management and conservation species and their habitat. Through joint efforts between property owner and Mexican government, Los Ocotones could be considered a biological corridor that connects vegetation remnants and contributes to conservation species (Grigione et al., 2009).

  • 2) The presence of coyote, a species with capacity to tolerate high levels of human disturbance, and its geographic expansion, has probably taken place because the modification of its natural habitat (Sosa-Escalante et al., 1997; Hidalgo-Mihart et al., 2004). It is likely that during the transition and modification of the original vegetation of Los Ocotones, more than 16 years ago, the dispersion of coyote from north to south of Mexico was favored (Sosa-Escalante et al., 1997; Hidalgo-Mihart et al., 2013; Peña-Mondragón et al., 2014). The sites with original habitat, or better conserved, could function as geographic barriers that avoid the dispersion of plastic species, which adapt easily to the modification of their habitat.

  • 3) The relevance of maintaining biological corridors, such as Los Ocotones, which may be refuge or passage habitat for vertebrates (Grigione et al., 2009), and developing management programs between natural protected areas, private areas, environmental management units, and forest management units that favor and ensure the conservation of priority species pointed out by environmental public policies (SEMARNAT, 2010).

The presence of species such as Galictis vittata, Leopardus pardalis, Leopardus wiedii, Panthera onca, Puma yagouaroundi, Eira barbara and Tapirus bairdii with some degree of conservation protection declared by the Mexican government, recorded in the management unit Los Ocotones, confirms that the coexistence between humans and these mammals is possible. Therefore, more detailed studies could be performed, in space and time, to evaluate the impact of the forest management practices on population dynamics, primarily of the species that are qualified with some degree of risk in Mexico.

Conclusions

The use of camera traps allowed updating the information of terrestrial mammal species that are difficult to visualize and confirm the presence of priority species in Los Ocotones. The photographic records are evidence that efforts should be made in this management unit to conserve the species reported in this study, and other terrestrial vertebrates that the unit could house.

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4Gómez-Jiménez, A. Propietario del Conjunto Predial Los Ocotones, Cintalapa, Chiapas.

Received: November 2016; Accepted: May 2017

* Author for correspondence: ejtr23@hotmail.com

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