Using Ungulate Occupancy to Evaluate a Biosphere Reserve Design in Tambopata, Peru



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Conservation areas in tropical forests protect the most diverse and threatened ecosystems on the planet. In the Amazon, ungulates are important to forest structure and diversity, but are also food for rural people. I estimated occupancy of white-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari), collared peccary (T. tajacu), lowland tapir (Tapirus terrestris), and red brocket deer (Mazama americana) in Tambopata, Peru to evaluate how different management designations along with anthropogenic and habitat factors influenced the distribution of these species. I used track surveys (n = 258) and camera surveys (n = 256) to estimate ungulate occupancy and detection at 55 sites in a national reserve, a native community, and adjacent buffer areas from May 2008 to March 2009. The best approximating model for white-lipped peccary, lowland tapir, and red brocket deer included only a variable of travel time from the nearest city (a measure of an area's accessibility). Management designation also had some influence on occupancy. I found significantly higher occupancy for collared peccary and red brocket deer in reserve and buffer areas than in the native community but there was no significant difference in occupancy between the reserve and buffer. These results indicate that passive protection might be an adequate management strategy for inaccessible areas of this region. However, as the Amazon continues to be developed, more active enforcement of park boundaries and regulations should be enacted if wildlife conservation is to be effective.