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Wild mammals and poaching in an Environmental Protected Area

The Environmental Protection Area (APA) Corumbataí-Botucatu-Tejupá, located in the western center of São Paulo state, Brazil, was created to protect the environmental and landscape features of the region, such as the Guarani Aquifer recharge areas, Capivara river basin, Basaltic Cuestas, "testemunhos" hills, Cerrado-Atlantic Forest transition vegetation, rich fauna and archaeological sites with prehistoric records of about six thousand years.

The native forest remnant studied is included in the Experimental Farm Edgardia, in APA Corumbataí-Botucatu-Tejupá. The farm belongs to the Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP) and functions as a FEPP (Teaching, Exploration and Production Farm), where are carried out projects and researches for development and for the preservation of the existing natural forest. With an area of ​​approximately 1,200 hectares (ha), it has formations of the Atlantic Forest, the Atlantic Forest-Cerrado transition and natural vegetation of Mata Ciliar, being classified as a Wildlife Conservation Zone. The forest remnants form natural vegetation corridors that increase the connectivity with other remaining fragments in the Cuesta.

In the late 1990s, a human-wildlife conflict between sheep farmers and pumas aroused after attacks on sheeps rearing in the FEPP. Preventive measures to avoid new attacks were taken, such as installing electric fence, wire fence and lighting in parts of the sheep paddock. These measures were effective for a certain period, with no attacks reports between 2000 and 2002. However, in 2003, new attacks occurred, mainly due to the lack of maintenance of the preventive measures previously performed.

After an evaluation of IBAMA (Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources) and in agreement with FMVZ (Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science), it was decided to capture and remove the animal from the land using traps installed by CENAP (National Research Center of Natural Predators). Concerned with the consequences of this decision, local Non Governmental Organization, SOS Cuesta de Botucatu, seen fit to contact the CENAP and IBAMA, asking for further clarification and review of the decision. At this moment, it came to knowledge that the animal about to be captured was a female that had just given birth to two cubs, what ensured its permanence in the area. New negotiations were held between IBAMA, CENAP, FMVZ, NGO SOS Cuesta and GEAS (Group of Wild Animals studies) in order to define recommendations for the prevention of attacks, preservation of the species and its habitat, including scientific research and environmental education.

For biodiversity preservation, different measures should be taken at any time to improve knowledge about local species and promote population mobilization in order to enable compatibility between economic practices and environmental conservation, within a model of sustainable development. Thus, this project sought to act in accordance with the recommendations made by CENAP-IBAMA, carrying out a survey of the species of medium and large mammals of the forest remnant surrounding the site of the attacks, using transect methods, sand plots for footprints and camera traps.

Thirteen mammals species were identified, and almost half of the records found belonging to the order Carnivora. The most frequent track was that of Puma. Smaller species were the most affected by hunting, such as armadillos and paca. During field activities and fauna survey several blindspots and baits were founded inside the forest. Hunters scatter baits in a clearing in the woods and wait on platforms built in the treetops to target animals coming to feed on the baits. Therefore, the points and platforms used by hunters found during the study were disarmed with the support of Environmental Police. To spread information and educate a larger portion of the population were used media such as television news, regional newspaper and cultural events. In addition to the media mentioned, the work carried out were also presented at conferences and scientific events.

Subsequently this initiative was extended to other forest remnants and new projects were undertaken. “Investigating the Biodiversity of Tamanduá River”, in the municipality of Itatinga, also included in the APA Corumbataí-Botucatu-Tejupá, sought to survey the species of mammals and birds of the region and identify possible ecological corridors between forest fragments. Another work developed in the APA was the identification and characterization of territorial behavior by pumas, in the areas and trails used by the researchers, and by poachers (as seen in our camera traps records).

This research was part of a Bachelor in Biological Science and had the effective contribution of several institutions, such as the NGO SOS Cuesta de Botucatu, Environmental Police, Diário da Serra (local newspaper) and TV TEM (affiliated to Rede Globo). Also had the support of the Instituto de Biociências e do Programa de Extensão Universitária (PROEX). 

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