Bolivia: Land of Giant Anteaters and Fairy Armadillos

July 23, 2013

A newly published WCS database shows the range of 116 species of Bolivian mammals, from the obscure “Count Branickii’s terrible mouse” to the mighty jaguar. The database will help shape future conservation decisions for some of South America’s most threatened and charismatic wildlife.

Have you met the pacarana? The oncilla or red-nosed bearded saki? Few have—giving a new database of Bolivian mammals an important role to play in chronicling this South American country’s poorly known yet vast wildlife.

The database details 31,380 distributional records for 116 species of medium and large-sized mammals ranging from the curious pacarana—a 30-plus pound nocturnal rodent also known as Count Branickii’s terrible mouse—to better known species such as the jaguar and lowland tapir. Other species include bush dog, black spider monkey, vicuna, giant anteater, water opossum, and the mysterious Chacoan fairy armadillo. The list does not include bats, rats, mice and smaller opossums.

The database, produced by staff of WCS’s Greater Madidi-Tambopata Landscape Program, was constructed over the past five years from published records, unpublished reports, and vast institutional databases from WCS and a number of Bolivian institutions. These include Museo de Historia Natural Noel Kempff Mercado, Armonia, BIOTA, FaunAgua, Alianza Gato Andino, Amazon Conservation Association, Museo de Historia Natural Alcide d’Orbigny and Centro de Biodiversidad y Genetica.

“The database synthesizes what is known about the distribution of some of Bolivia’s most charismatic wildlife,” said the study’s lead author, WCS’s Robert Wallace. “In order to adequately plan and achieve the conservation of biodiversity, one of the first and most important steps is of course to know where different species occur. Very few countries in Latin America, if any, have been able to synthesize existing knowledge about mammal distributions in this way. This initiative demonstrates the collaborative spirit of conservation scientists working in Bolivia today.”

The database not only summarizes what biologists in Bolivia have determined about mammal distributions to date, it also points to some of the information gaps, both in terms of species and geographic areas with very few records. For example, a small spotted cat called the oncilla is expected to occur across at least half of the country but has just 19 confirmed records to date. Meanwhile the Chuquisaca Department of Bolivia, about the size of Costa Rica, has records for just 93 medium and large-sized mammals—a surprisingly small number for an area so large.

WCS’s conservation research in Bolivia has been made possible by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Blue Moon Fund, the Beneficia Foundation, the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, Woodland Park Zoo and other generous supporters.

To learn more, read the press release >>
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