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Translocation

A proposal
Translocation of Collared Peccary (Pecari tajacu) as Supplemental Alternative Prey for Large Carnivores

Presented by:


Louis A. Harveson, Ph.D.,Professor of Wildlife Management, Patricia Moody Harveson, Ph.D.,Assistant Professor of Conservation Biology, and Ron Thompson-Borderlands Research Institute for Natural Resource Management, P.O. Box C-16, Sul Ross State University, Alpine, Texas 79832. E-mail:harveson@sulross.edu; Warren Ballard, PhD., Horn Professor & Bricker Chair in Wildlife Management, Texas Tech University, Susan Dieterich

MVZ MC Ivonne Cassaigne, DVM, Facultad de Medicina Veterinaria y Zootecnia, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. E-mail:icassaigne@yahoo.com   

Rodrigo A. Medellín, PhD.,  Professor Instituto de Ecologia, Laboratorio de Ecologia y Conservación de Vertebrados. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. E-mail: medellín@ecologia.unam.mx

Biol. Cristina Melendez, Comisión de Ecología y Desarrollo Sustentable del Estado de Sonora (CEDES)

Linda Searles, Director, SouthwestWildlifeConservation Center, PMB 115-8711 E. PinnaclePeakRd. Scottsdale, AZ, 85255 USA. E-mail: ConservationDept@southwestwildlife.org

Lic. Jesus Moreno Martinez and Manual Galas Galas, UMA representatives for the Association for the Conservation of Jaguars in the Sierra Alta of Sonora, MX. E-mail: jaguarsonora@hotmail.com

In collaboration with:

Melanie Culver, PhD., Assistant Professor of Wildlife and Fisheries Science, and Ashwin Naidu, PhD. Candidate, School of Renewable Natural Resources and the Environment

Francisco Abarca, International and Borderland Projects Manager, and Brian Wakeling, Game Branch Chief, Arizona Game and Fish Department, 5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ

Jim Sanderson, PhD., Small Wild Cat Foundation,

David E. Brown, Adjunct Professor, University of Arizona and Joe Figel, PhD. candidate

Pope and Young Club of North America and Dirk Dieterich.

Phoenix Zoo, Phoenix, Arizona


SUMMARY

Collared peccaries form Arizona, vaccinated for canine distemper virus and rabies, will be held in pens and their offspring soft-released into the Rio Yaqui river basin. Release sites are characterized by consistent current and past livestock depredations by jaguar (Panthera onca) and puma (Puma concolor). Release sites are within privately owned ranches within the Association for the Conservation of the Jaguar in the Sierra Alta of Sonora. Source populations of disease-free and vaccinated peccary will be obtained from the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center and the Phoenix Zoo. All peccaries have been pen-raised or removed from the wild due to human-peccary conflicts. Survivorship of peccary will be monitored using camera traps and ear-tag marked animals. Livestock depredation rates between treatment and non-treatment areas will be compared. Food habits of area jaguars and pumas will be monitored through scat collections. Camera trap data will be used to determine if peccaries are selected as alternative prey relative to their availability and to that of the availability of livestock. If funding is available, pumas and/or peccaries will be radio collared with GPS collars and kill-site clusters investigated for peccary and other prey mortalities.


INTRODUCTION


We propose to release collared peccaries from Arizona, vaccinated against canine distemper virus and rabies, into the Rio Yaqui river basin. The release sites will be within a government-approved private-land wildlife management area designated as a Unidad de Manejo para la Conservacion de la Vida Silvestre, or UMA (see the website semarnat.gob.mx). In a recent study by Rosas-Rosas et al. (2008 and 2010) livestock calves were found to account for 58% of the diet of jaguars and 9% by pumas, collectively accounting for approximately 14% of all cattle losses that are detected in the UMA.  

Peccaries are considered a major prey item throughout the range of the jaguar (Medellin et al. 2002, Nunez et al. 2000) and where the range of the puma is sympatric with peccary (Rosas-Rosas 2008, Sowls 1997). In the Rio Yaqui watershed near the junction of the Aros and Bavispe rivers, peccaries are thought to be less plentiful now than prior to 2002 (personal communication by Memo Galas-Galas). A sudden decline in peccaries is believed to have occurred due to unknown reasons in 2002, a drought year for the region as described by local inhabitants (personal communication by Memo Galas-Galas). It was approximately the same time period that local livestock depredations by jaguar and puma were also noted to be high and subsequently resulted in the removal of 11 jaguars (Rosas-Rosas 2008). Based on a review of camera trap photos from the project area during the period 2008-10 peccary populations are still considered to be low when their detection rates are compared to other prey items (Personal communication by Memo Galas-Galas). This data has not yet been quantified, but is currently being analyzed with approximately 30 thousand camera trap photos from the period 2008-10.

Canine distemper virus (CD) is caused by a Morbillivirus virus in the family Paramyxoviridae (Budd, 1981). The disease is acute and highly contagious in dogs with 100% mortality and is transmitted via aerosol (Appel, 1987; Timoney et al., 1988). Canine distemper virus (CDV) infection is enzootic in many wild and domestic species throughout the world (Appel, 1987). All members of Canidae and Mustelidae are affected by CDV (Timoney et al., 1988). Some members of the Procyonidae, Hyaenidae, Ailuridae, Ailuropodidae, Viverridae, and Felidae families are also susceptible (Appel, 1987; Murphy 1999).
Reasons for sudden declines of peccary populations in the wild have been hypothesized to be the result of CD outbreaks (Noon et al. 2003). In 1989 a disease epidemic of apparent high mortality occurred in collared peccary in southern Arizona (Noon et al. 2003). Serologic testing of clinically normal peccary at that time and in subsequent years found a relatively high and persistent prevalence of serum neutralizing antibodies to CDV.  

GOALS

The Arizona Game and Fish Department translocates wildlife within the state and has agreements with other states and Mexico to assist with translocations as part of the Department’s ongoing wildlife management process to conserve, enhance, and restore wildlife populations. The primary goal of this project is to collaborate internationally at a level that will positively affect the conservation of a threatened species as prescribed by international conservation biologists (Medellin 1998) and to promote healthy prey populations as a buffer species against livestock depredations by large carnivores through the translocation of vaccinated peccary. A second goal is to relocate peccaries considered to be human-conflict nuisance animals, or are in excess of facility-limited captive population goals, to remote areas with no centers of wildlife-human conflict within close proximity. A third goal is to augment wild free-ranging populations of peccary within the recipient region with vaccinated peccary so as to provide increased protection from CDV outbreaks and provide possible future sport hunting in support of local economies and wildlife conservation programs.  

OBJECTIVES

The first objective of the proposal is to demonstrate that a canary pox vectored canine distemper vaccine (Purevax® Ferret Distemper, Merial Limited) is safe and induces a serum antibody response in peccary in order to develop future strategies for the control of population decline in captive and relocated peccary due to canine distemper outbreaks. Translocation of vaccinated animals could then be accomplished where livestock depredations are attributed to large carnivores. A second objective is to develop a process by which human-conflict vaccinated peccaries can be periodically transported to a quarantine facility in Sonora in the immediate area of livestock depredation concerns, where they would be held until the area’s extant peccary population can be surveyed and tested for antibodies to CDV. Translocated peccaries would then be released into the wild, or held for a breeding season in order to keep a small reproductive group to achieve long-term goals of increasing peccary numbers in the wild. This process will involve obtaining blood samples from existing wild populations of peccaries in the area for comparative disease surveillance and priori evidence of CD. The third objective is to monitor the survivorship of translocated peccaries and predation by large carnivores on peccary in relation to predation rates on area livestock with and without peccary augmentation.

STUDY AREA


The study area is located near the confluence of the Aros and Bavispe rivers in Sonora, Mexico (Figure 1.). Rosas-Rosas and Valdez (2010) provided a description of the study site and we paraphrase their description here. The area is located in the Sierra Madre Occidental and is composed of 11 ranches. It is located about 270 km south of the United States-Mexico boundary.  The area is about 30 km southwest of Nacori Chico, Mexico.  Their study site was 400 km2 but movements of animals will determine the size of our study area. Movements out of the core study area will require cooperation from other land managers and conservation areas.  The area has a wide diversity of vegetation such as Sinaloan Thornscrub, Sinaloan Tropical Deciduous Forest, Madrean Evergreen Woodland, and Montane Conifer Forest in additional to a number of riparian and other wetland communities (Brown 1994).  The Aros and Bavispe rivers bisect the area. Free-ranging cattle ranching is the primary land use and cattle are probably the most abundant large prey species.  Other important species include white-tailed deer (Odocoilius virginianus), collared peccary, white-nose coati (Nasua narica), and various species of lagomorphs and skunks.


 
Figure 1. Proposed translocation area in Sonora, Mexico.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

Vaccination
Peccaries in Arizona will be initially held and vaccinated against rabies, using a commercial recombinant vaccine, and additionally for CDV at the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center (SWCC) and the Phoenix zoo. A population of 30 captive human-conflict peccaries at the SWCC will initially be divided into 3 test groups of 10 animals each and vaccinated with Purevax® Ferret Distemper (Merial Limited). Peccaries will then be evaluated for CDV vaccine safety and serum antibody response. All animals will be identified by an appropriate tagging system (ear tags and micro chips) and randomly assigned to 3 test groups. 30 doses of Purevax® Ferret Distemper vaccine will be transported by a commercial carrier and delivered to the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center. Vaccine will be stored under refrigeration until administered. Vaccines will be administered as one ml of vaccine subcutaneously over the lateral neck region. Animals receiving two doses of vaccine will receive the booster dose on the opposite side from the primary dose. Test groups will be vaccinated as follows:
  • Test Group 1 will receive one vaccination on day 0 of the study.
  • Test Group 2 will receive vaccinations on day 0 and day 14.  
  • Test Group 3 will serve as a control group. All groups will be retested on days, 0, and 14 and near day 56.
Vaccine safety will be assessed by observing all animals for approximately one hour post vaccination and once daily thereafter for adverse events that may be related to the vaccination. All observations will be documented in a study log. Serologic evidence of a response to the distemper antigen will be assessed via blood drawn from all animals at 7, 14, and near 56 days for antibody testing. Titer results will be analyzed with a statistical analysis software package. A positive serologic immunity response will qualify the animals for translocation consideration.

DNA


All peccaries from within the captive translocation population and those captured and tested in the wild will have their DNA profiled and placed in a data base for future comparison to any remains of peccary located at future mortality sites of GPS-collared pumas, at natural mortality sites and from scat of both puma and jaguar located within the study area.

Translocation

30 peccaries that have been vaccinated, ear-tagged and micro-chipped will be transported from SWCC or the Phoenix Zoo in Arizona to the international border at Douglas/Agua Prieta for inspection and permitting. The transport container (most likely a horse trailer) will be sealed by SAGARPA prior to further transport to the pens at the release or breeding site in Sonora located on Rancho Pueblo Viejo near the confluence of the Aros and Bavispe rivers. This area appears to have a high density of jaguars and pumas as determined by camera traps since 2009 (unpublished UMA camera trap data). The ranch has a real or perceived high predation rate by puma and jaguars on livestock (personal communication by ranch owner Jesus Moreno). The sealed trailer will then be inspected, opened and the peccaries transferred into temporary pens. Sonoran authorities will approve any release following the minimum 30-day quarantine period.

Translocation Monitoring

Camera traps will be the primary method of monitoring peccary populations within the study area supplemented with translocated marked peccaries. Camera data will be compiled and analyzed using the program Renamer as described by Harris et al. in 2010 and analyzed by mark-recapture programs such as PRESENCE (MacKenzie et al. 2005). Kill cluster sites of area pumas with GPS radio collars will be investigated to determine rate of predation on marked (DNA and tag presence) and unmarked peccaries. Scat of puma and jaguar will also be collected opportunistically from within the project area and analyzed for marked and unmarked peccary following procedures as described by Naidu et al. in 2011. A program using a Peterson-Lincoln index analyses will be used to analyze DNA capture/recapture data.

Expected Results


We hypothesize that:
  • An existing commercial vaccine will be successful in building significant antibodies in peccary against the canine distemper virus and that vaccinated peccaries will subsequently have a higher survivorship long term and comprise larger herd sizes than unvaccinated wild extant peccaries.
  • Translocated peccary will become alternative prey for project area puma and jaguar and marked animals will be detected in each carnivore’s diet.
  • Puma and jaguar predation rates on livestock will be lower within the study site with translocated peccary than an adjacent site without translocated peccary.
  • Translocated peccary will provide the basis for a future sustainable sport-hunted peccary population that will provide additional economic benefits to area UMAs in support of large carnivore management and conservation.

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