Acting very withdrawn and showing habits which are practically unknown by science, the bush dog (Speothos venaticus) — also called vinegar dog, or savannah dog — is referred as a ‘ghost’ by researchers. This species was described in 1842 by the Danish researcher Peter Lund, considered to be the father of Brasilian paleontology. Since then, the latest official recordings, made in Minas Gerais state, were from the bush dog tracks and two dead animals.
Last week, images of a living specimen of the bush dog were recorded in the Veredas do Peruaçu State Park, in the northern part of Minas Gerais state. This was achieved through ‘photo traps’ set up, which is part of scientific monitoring made possible by a partnership between WWF-Brasil and the Biotropicos Institute.
The bush dog features dark brown fur, an elongated body measuring up to 70 cm long, short paws and ears, and weighs approximately 5 kilogrammes. This animal’s urine has a strong vinegar smell and that explains why it is also known as ‘vinegar dog’. This species is found in the Cerrado, the Atlantic Forest and the Amazon biomes in Brasil. It is one of the smallest and most social animals from the Canidae family in South America, living in permanent packs composed of up to ten bush dogs.
“The pack allows the group to hunt large preys. This behaviour is not observed in other species, such as the maned wolf, the pampas fox or the hoary fox”, says Frederico Lemos, from Goiás Federal University.
This species is in a vulnerable situation in Brasil and it is critically threatened in Minas Gerais state. It is listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The main threats include deforestation, conflicts with human population, hunting, and diseases transmitted by pets.
That is why it is so important to keep protected areas connected with ecological corridors, to ensure that rural properties comply with the legislation, and to take care of domestic animal health throughout the Peruaçu Valley, where the bush dog was recorded. The Peruaçu River is a tributary to the São Francisco River.
This region is part of the Sertão Veredas-Peruaçu Mosaic of Protected Areas, which occupies nearly 2 million hectares in northern Minas Gerais and southwest Bahia. According to Michael Becker, WWF-Brasil’s Conservation Director, this finding reinforces the relevance of protected areas for the Cerrado biome.
“This record (made of the bush dog) clarifies the role of the protected areas, particularly in the Cerrado, a biome with less than 3% of its area being effectively safeguarded by public powers. New international targets for biodiversity conservation call for protected areas to cover at least 17% of every terrestrial biome”, emphasised Michael Becker.
The above news item is reprinted from materials available at WWF Brasil. Original text may be edited for content and length.
(Source: WWF Brasil News, 23.10.2012)