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The price of persistence: Small carnivore ecology within the anthropogenically-degraded Kinabatangan landscape

Evans, Meaghan N. 2019. The price of persistence: Small carnivore ecology within the anthropogenically-degraded Kinabatangan landscape. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Habitat fragmentation and degradation by human activities, particularly agricultural development, threatens global biodiversity. This thesis presents a multifaceted evaluation of the ecology of Malay and common palm civets in the Lower Kinabatangan Floodplain (Sabah, Borneo), a patchwork forest landscape heavily fragmented by oil palm plantations. Morphometric measurements, reproductive observations, parasitic infections, blood samples for haematology and serum biochemistry analyses, and hair samples for heavy metal analysis were collected from wild civets captured between 2012 and 2018. The pioneering deployment of GPS-collars on four common palm and 17 Malay civets enabled the determination of home ranges, diurnal sleeping sites, home range overlaps, and movement behaviours. Haematological and biochemical blood profiles indicated potential anaemia, immunosuppression, and consumption of a low-protein diet in civets captured closer to oil palm plantations. Civets expressed significantly elevated liver enzyme levels relative to domestic animals. Individuals of both species used oil palm plantations for nocturnal foraging and diurnal rest sites; however, all collared individuals accessed forests. Home ranges of civets that accessed plantations were significantly larger than civets that did not, suggesting oil palm poses low habitat suitability. Civet hair concentrations of 13 heavy metals indicated detectable exposure to varying quantities of metals, with levels impacted by biological and landscape factors. Exposure to Ba, Cd, Cr, and Fe was associated with Malay civet proximity to tributaries, whilst elevated Al, Cd, and Pb concentrations were documented from GPS-collared civets using plantations. The extent of exposure scaled with the intensity of an individual’s usage of plantations. Finally, correlations between hair metal concentrations and blood parameters suggested exposure to Al, Cd, Cr, Ba, and Pb may impact civet physiology. This study represents a step change in the understanding of civet ecology, and provides novel insights into the price of carnivore persistence in degraded landscapes.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Biosciences
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 10 February 2020
Last Modified: 10 Feb 2021 03:05

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