Bears are large, charismatic mammals whose presence often garners conservation attention. Because healthy bear populations typically require large, contiguous areas of habitat, land conservation actions often are assumed to benefit co-occurring species, including other mammalian carnivores. However, we are not aware of an empirical test of this assumption. We used remote camera data from 2 national parks in Sri Lanka to test the hypothesis that the frequency of detection of sloth bears (Melursus ursinus) is associated with greater richness of carnivore species. We focused on mammalian carnivores because they play a pivotal role in the stability of ecological communities and are among Sri Lanka's most endangered species. Seven of Sri Lanka's carnivores are listed as endangered, vulnerable, or near threatened, and little empirical information exists on their status and distribution. During 2002–03, we placed camera traps at 152 sites to document carnivore species presence. We used Poisson regression to develop predictive models for 3 categories of dependent variables: species richness of (1) all carnivores, (2) carnivores considered at risk, and (3) carnivores of least conservation concern. For each category, we analyzed 8 a priori models based on combinations of sloth bear detections, sample year, and study area and used Akaike's information criterion (AICc) to test our research hypothesis. We detected sloth bears at 55 camera sites and detected 13 of Sri Lanka's 14 Carnivora species. Species richness of all carnivores showed positive associations with the number of sloth bear detections, regardless of study area. Sloth bear detections were also positively associated with species richness of carnivores at risk across both study years and study areas, but not with species richness of common carnivores. Sloth bears may serve as a valuable surrogate species whose habitat protection would contribute to conservation of other carnivores in Sri Lanka.
Additional publication details
Assessing sloth bears as surrogates for carnivore conservation in Sri Lanka
International Association for Bear Research and Management