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A field and laboratory-based assessment of the distribution of large- and meso-carnivore species in the newly established Murree, Kotli Sattian, and Kahuta National Park, Pakistan

Khatoon, Rukhsana, Mehmood, Tariq, Anwar, Maqsood, Habiba, Ume, Eggert, Lori S., Gompper, Matthew E.
Mammal research 2019 v.64 no.3 pp. 411-422
Canis aureus, Felis chaus, Martes flavigula, Prionailurus bengalensis, Viverricula indica, Vulpes vulpes, carnivores, feces, jackals, mitochondria, national parks, odors, surveys, Pakistan
Recent carnivore distributions in eastern Pakistan are poorly documented. In an effort to fill knowledge gaps, we combined field and laboratory molecular approaches to identify the large- and mid-sized mammalian carnivores in Murree, Kotli Sattian, and Kahuta National Park in Rawalpindi, Punjab. A total of 23 sites, each with a transect of 1–4 km in length, were identified and visited monthly over 24 months in 2016–2018. Fecal samples (n = 317) were collected and identified to species in the field based on morphology, odor, and additional signs. A subset (n = 150) of these samples was genetically identified to species using primers designed to amplify an informative region of the canid, felid, mustelid, and viverrid mitochondrial control region. Identified carnivore species for the park include leopard, leopard cat, jungle cat, red fox, golden jackal, small Indian civet, and Canis spp. For leopard, red fox, and golden jackal, field identification rates were accurate at a true-positive rate ≥ 63%. However, there was a notably high rate of field misidentification of putative jungle cat and yellow-throated marten samples, most of which were genetically identified as leopard cat or non-Carnivora samples. We mapped fecal sample presence points based on both morphological and genetically confirmed samples. For five of six dyadic combinations of pairwise species segregation patterns, there was evidence of high rates of non-random co-occurrence of red fox and jackal (p ≤ 0.05). For the other five pairwise combinations, no statistical support was found for non-random distribution. Such findings reiterate the need to combine field and molecular approaches when using fecal samples to survey communities, and underscore the need for broader studies of the carnivore communities of Pakistan.