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Ecology of the Reticulated Python (Malayopython reticulatus): Life in an altered landscape

Burger, Richard 2022. Ecology of the Reticulated Python (Malayopython reticulatus): Life in an altered landscape. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Palm oil is one of the primary drivers of deforestation in Southeast Asia, causing widespread biodiversity loss. Reticulated pythons as large, widespread, generalist predators may play a key role at the interface between forest fragments and plantations, and are also the most heavily-traded species of snake in the world. This study occurred within forest fragments and oil palm plantations in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, Sabah, Malaysia. The study explored the potential for visual encounter survey monitoring protocols as an effective tool for monitoring population changes resulting from trade dynamics by detailing population demographics, correlates of encounter rates, and by assessing occupancy and detectability. VHF telemetry was combined with LiDAR data to assess space-use, movement, and habitat selection in 16 pythons. Eight individuals were additionally trialled with experimental GPS devices. Data were collected from within forest fragments and plantations, aiming to compare python responses within differing landscapes. Field surveys appear highly inefficient as a trade monitoring tool, with a mean encounter rate of 0.051 pythons/km surveyed. Encounter rates and movement responses of telemetered pythons were highly correlated with moon phase, suggesting that timing surveys to coincide with moon phases can improve efficiency. An overview is provided of the necessary considerations for future researchers wishing to adopt GPS technology for snakes. Males typically occupy larger home ranges than females, and home ranges within plantations appear smaller, and pythons move less often, compared to those in forests. Within forests, pythons often move in strong moonlight and low rainfall, while the opposite was observed for pythons in plantations. Pythons appear to select habitats closer to water and flood-prone areas. Habitat suitability within plantations is highly heterogeneous, and plantations showed lower suitability overall compared to forests. The ecological implications of the underappreciated abundance and resilience of reticulated pythons warrant further study in the face of continued habitat alteration, and this work provides important and unique insights into python ecology and conservation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Acceptance
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Biosciences
Subjects: Q Science > Q Science (General)
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 6 September 2022
Date of Acceptance: June 2022
Last Modified: 05 Jan 2024 08:17

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