Carnivore hotspots in Peninsular Malaysia and their landscape attributes
Mammalian carnivores play a vital role in ecosystem functioning. However, they are prone to extinction because of low population densities and growth rates, and high levels of persecution or exploitation. In tropical biodiversity hotspots such as Peninsular Malaysia, rapid conversion of natural habitats threatens the persistence of this vulnerable group of animals. Here, we carried out the first comprehensive literature review on 31 carnivore species reported to occur in Peninsular Malaysia and updated their probable distribution. We georeferenced 375 observations of 28 species of carnivore from 89 unique geographic locations using records spanning 1948 to 2014. Using the Getis-Ord Gi*statistic and weighted survey records by IUCN Red List status, we identified hotspots of species that were of conservation concern and built regression models to identify environmental and anthropogenic landscape factors associated with Getis-Ord Gi* z scores. Our analyses identified two carnivore hotspots that were spatially concordant with two of the peninsula’s largest and most contiguous forest complexes, associated with Taman Negara National Park and Royal Belum State Park. A cold spot overlapped with the southwestern region of the Peninsula, reflecting the disappearance of carnivores with higher conservation rankings from increasingly fragmented natural habitats. Getis-Ord Gi* z scores were negatively associated with elevation, and positively associated with the proportion of natural land cover and distance from the capital city. Malaysia contains some of the world’s most diverse carnivore assemblages, but recent rates of forest loss are some of the highest in the world. Reducing poaching and maintaining large, contiguous tracts of lowland forests will be crucial, not only for the persistence of threatened carnivores, but for many mammalian species in general.
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