May 1, 2017 by Species Ecology
Small carnivores and their contribution to pollination, seed dispersal and forest regeneration in tropical ecosystems
Medium to small size carnivores in tropical guild face subtle and unprecedented threats that are often undermined both in terms of its ecological research and its human dimension of managing the species. There are thirty eight species of viverrids that are so far discovered and named and all of them live in tropical and semi-tropical ecosystems that are undergoing rapid deforestation for the past few decades. Viverridae is one of the groups in carnivore mammals that looks like a cat and hyena and the small ones’ resemble mongoose. Previously mongoose belong to the same group but due to various anatomical and physiological differences, it has been taken off from the viverridae family and now belong to its own family called herpestidae: another group of mammalian carnivore that also hosts Suricates commonly known as mere-cat. Therefore, viverridae comprising thirty eight species including five subspecies is an old world i.e. Afrotropic and Indo-Malayan family that now live in an increasingly human dominated tropical rainforest that are facing anthropogenic encroachment in a dramatic rate.
Viverridae comprises four notable types of animals and these are genets, binturong, linsang (its not Chinese although it sounded as such) and civets. Civets comprise most of the species whilst little over a dozen different species of ganets and only one species of binturong left in the wild. Little study has been conducted to understand their basic ecology in terms of habitat preferences, hunting regimes, dietary basis, its predatory behavior and so forth. Nonetheless, there are practical reasons for many carnivore biologists to avoid studying viverrids. One of the reasons is its secretive, nocturnal and arboreal ‘dense forest dwelling’ attitude that creates a practical setback for biologists to develop a survey method to study them in the wild. Compounding to that, often the conservation fund for any mammal ecological study veritably grounded to the ‘high profile’ colorful mega-fauna that often served as flagship species to bring about overall biodiversity conservation in tropical nations. Hence viverrids are not the kind of carnivores that sits at the top list to be given conservation grant for collecting its basic ecological data. Purely form that standpoint, one may argue species that are less attractive face conservation discrimination and research bias despite the fact these species play significant contribution to maintain ecosystem process and services in tropical forest. For example, majority of viverrids are omnivorous hence it eats fruits, seeds and even tropical leaves. The seed dispersal and pollination are two fundamental keys for forest regeneration and natural succession be it tropical or temperate forests. Rainforest research that focused on measuring the seed dispersal and pollination by small mammals shed an interesting light regarding the food habits of viverrids and how it helps regenerating the forest. It has been postulated that full-blown solid ecological study on viverrids can help us to understand the rainforest ecosystem processes and the services it provides to human. Anecdotal and ‘ad-hoc‘ studies suggests that viverrids population size is decreasing all over the old world where deforestation correlates with its population decline.