• Demography of the giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) in Manu National Park, South-Eastern Peru: Implications for conservation

      Groenendijk, Jessica; Hajek, Frank; Johnson, Paul J.; Macdonald, David W.; Calvimontes, Jorge; Staib, Elke; Schenck, Christof (2014)
      The giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) is an endangered semi-aquatic carnivore of South America. We present findings on the demography of a population inhabiting the floodplain of Manu National Park, south-eastern Peru, arising from 14 annual dry season censuses over a 16 year period. The breeding system of territorial groups, including only a single breeding female with non-reproductive adult ‘helpers’, resulted in a low intrinsic rate of increase (0.03) and a slow recovery from decades of hunting for the pelt trade. This is explained by a combination of factors: (1) physiological traits such as late age at first reproduction and long generation time, (2) a high degree of reproductive skew, (3) small litters produced only once a year, and (4) a 50% mortality between den emergence and age of dispersal, as well as high mortality amongst dispersers (especially males). Female and male giant otters show similar traits with respect to average reproductive life-spans (female 5.4 yrs., male 5.2 yrs.) and average cub productivity (female 6.9, male 6.7 cubs per lifetime); the longest reproductive life spans were 11 and 13 years respectively. Individual reproductive success varied substantially and depended mainly on the duration of dominance tenure in the territory. When breeding females died, the reproductive position in the group was usually occupied by sisters or daughters (n = 11), with immigrant male partners. Male philopatry was not observed. The vulnerability of the Manu giant otter population to anthropogenic disturbance emphasises the importance of effective protection of core lake habitats in particular. Riverine forests are the most endangered ecosystem in the Department of Madre de Dios due to the concentration of gold mining, logging and agricultural activities in floodplains, highlighting the need for a giant otter habitat conservation corridor along the Madre de Dios River.
    • Effects of territory size on the reproductive success and social system of the giant otter, south-eastern Peru: Territory size and reproductive success in giant otters

      Groenendijk, Jessica; Hajek, Frank; Schenck, C.; Staib, E.; Johnson, P. J.; Macdonald, D. W. (2015)
      The link between resource abundance, dispersion and cooperative breeding in mammals has been a topic of much debate among ecologists. The giant otter social system is facultatively cooperative…. We conclude that giant otter societies are likely shaped by the spatial dispersion of lakes, and food abundance and dispersion within these rich patches.
    • Utilizing first occurrence, nursing behavior, and growth data to enhance animal management: An example with African elephants (Loxodonta africana)

      Miller, Lance J.; Andrews, Jeff (2013)
      One of the many goals of zoological institutions is to actively breed endangered species to enhance conservation efforts. Unfortunately, many of these species are not reproducing at high enough levels to sustain populations within zoos. Low reproductive success and high infant mortality are two areas of concern for some of these species. Collecting behavioral data on developmental milestones following successful births can create a database of information to aide animal management to help make more informed decisions during subsequent births. The current study provides valuable information for African elephant calf developmental norms and demonstrates how data on first occurrences, nursing behavior and growth patterns can aide animal management. Data were collected on eleven African elephants (Loxodonta africana) at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido, CA of which ten have survived. Results show that on average African elephant calves were standing within 40 minutes, attempted to nurse within an hour and a half, and successfully nursed within six hrs. There were no significant differences in nursing rates, growth patterns, or first occurrence behaviors between males and females during the first 75 days of life and elephants gained on average 0.59 kg/day over that same period of time. Results also show a significant change in nursing behavior on day 22 for the elephant calf that died. This information is intended to serve as a resource for elephant managers with newborn African elephants and to serve as a model to develop similar type databases for other species in need within zoological institutions.