From the obscure “Count Branickii’s terrible mouse” to the mighty jaguar, WCS database shows 31,380 distributional records for 116 Bolivian medium and large-sized mammal species

Database is a major contribution for future conservation decision-making for some of South America’s most threatened and charismatic wildlife

NEW YORK (July 23, 2013) — The Wildlife Conservation Society announced today the publication of a massive database of mammals occurring in Bolivia, shedding light on the poorly known yet vast wildlife diversity of this South American country.

The database details 31,380 distributional records for 116 species of medium and large-sized mammals ranging from the curious pacarana – a 30-plus pound nocturnal rodent also known as Count Branickii’s terrible mouse – to better known species such as the jaguar and lowland tapir. Other species include bush dog, black spider monkey, vicuna, giant anteater, water opossum, and the mysterious Chacoan fairy armadillo. The number of records for the featured species range from just one for the newly registered red-nosed bearded saki monkey to 2,370 for the white-lipped peccary. The list does not include bats, rats, mice and smaller opossums.

The database was gathered over the past five years through existing published records, as well as trawling through “grey literature” or unpublished reports along with vast institutional databases from WCS and a number of Bolivian institutions including Museo de Historia Natural Noel Kempff Mercado, Armonia, BIOTA, FaunAgua, Alianza Gato Andino, Amazon Conservation Association, Museo de Historia Natural Alcide d’Orbigny and Centro de Biodiversidad y Genetica.

The new database is published as a DVD called “Base de Datos de Distribución de Mamíferos Medianos y Grandes de Bolivia” and produced by Robert Wallace, Heidy Lopez-Strauss, Nohelia Mercado and Zulia Porcel of WCS’s Greater Madidi-Tambopata Landscape Program. It was recently presented and distributed to attendees at the VI Bolivian Mastozoology Congress in Cobija, Pando, Bolivia.

“The database synthesizes what is known about the distribution of some of Bolivia’s most charismatic wildlife,” said the study’s lead author Robert Wallace. “In order to adequately plan and achieve the conservation of biodiversity, one of the first and most important steps is of course to know where different species occur. Very few countries in Latin America, if any, have been able to synthesize existing knowledge about mammal distributions in this way. This initiative demonstrates the collaborative spirit of conservation scientists working in Bolivia today.”

Lilian Painter, WCS’s Bolivian Country Director said: “WCS is committed to generating and sharing critical information about Bolivia’s extraordinary biodiversity and we are especially proud of our collaborations with Bolivia’s blossoming local institutional capacity. More than two-thirds of all the records compiled were registered by WCS-supported research. By sharing these data with decision-makers, fellow scientists and conservationists, and the broader public the Bolivian mammal research community is helping to ensure that the needs of these wonderful creatures can be incorporated into Bolivia’s sustainable development vision.”

The database not only summarizes what biologists in Bolivia have determined about mammal distributions to date, it also points to some of the information gaps, both in terms of species with very few records and geographic areas with few mammal records. For example, a small spotted cat called the oncilla is expected to occur across at least 50 percent of the country but only has 19 confirmed records to date. Meanwhile the Chuquisaca Department of Bolivia, about the size of Costa Rica, has just 93 medium and large-sized mammal records – a surprisingly small number for an area so large.

WCS’s conservation research in Bolivia has been made possible by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the blue moon fund, the Beneficia Foundation, the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, Woodland Park Zoo, and other generous supporters.

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The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. 

The MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society