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Anthropogenic edge effects in habitat selection by sun bears in a protected area

May 3, 2021

Wildlife populations in southeast Asia are increasingly experiencing a broad array of anthropogenic threats, and mammalian carnivores are particularly vulnerable. Populations of the Malayan sun bear Helarctos malayanus are estimated to have declined by 30% over the last 30 years from forest conversion to industrial plantations and mortality associated with human–bear conflicts and illegal wildlife trade. However, the effects of industrial plantations on habitat selection and activity patterns of mammals that live at the protected area-plantation interface, including sun bears, are not well known. We investigated habitat selection and activity patterns of sun bears in Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Sabah, Malaysia. We deployed 83 remote camera sites to record sun bear detections during two sampling periods (2012–2013 and 2017). We used generalized linear models to examine relationships between sun bear presence and site covariates representing physical, environmental and anthropogenic elements of the landscape. Relative probability of sun bear presence was positively associated with distance to roads and elevation. Because most roads were on the reserve boundary and often associated with oil palm plantations, proximity to roads likely served as a surrogate measure of human accessibility and activity in peripheral areas of the reserve. Supporting that interpretation, sun bears close to the reserve boundary were primarily active at night, whereas daytime activity was more common for bears in the interior. Our findings indicate that sun bears alter behaviour and habitat selection likely in response to anthropogenic activities at the edges of Tabin Wildlife Reserve (112 200 ha). Because the ratio of edge to interior increases steeply with declining habitat area, smaller protected areas bordered by plantations are predicted to have greater impacts on sun bear behaviour and, potentially, population persistence. Effective conservation actions may benefit from management to improve the security of edge habitats for sun bears and other vulnerable species.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2021
Title Anthropogenic edge effects in habitat selection by sun bears in a protected area
DOI 10.2981/wlb.00776
Authors T. L Tee, Frank T. van Manen, P. Kretzschmar, S. P. Sharp, S. T. Wong, S. Gadas, S. Ratnayeke
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Wildlife Biology
Series Number
Index ID 70220341
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center

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