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Green spaces are a critical refuge for threatened species

At first glance, metropolitan areas may appear to be devoid of wildlife, but that is far from the truth. Green spaces in large cities can serve as corridors or stepping stones for wild animals and even threatened mammal species.

In one of the most populous and densely urbanized cities in Brazil, a research team recorded a South American coati, a carnivore that lives on trees that feeds on small invertebrates and fruits. The species is classified as vulnerable in Rio Grande do Sul, mainly because of the loss of its forest habitats.

The Brazilian research team detected the animal using a camera trap during a Masters research project conducted at the Canoas Airbase, one of the last green spaces remaining in the municipality. 

Finding a coati in the middle of a dense, urban area surprised them. While the species is not considered threatened in the majority of its area of distribution, the coati population has been in a state of decline as a result of habitat loss and hunting.

“This record confirms the capacity of this species to use environments that have been changed by anthropic activity. In urban areas, the availability of anthropic food resources can favor the establishment of species with greater plasticity,” wrote the researchers.

“Conversely, proximity of humans can also cause conflicts and threats to wildlife and increases the likelihood of diseases transmitted by domesticated animals, such as cats and dogs.”

According to the study authors, this record is worthy of note because it refers to an urban area where coatis were believed to be extinct, in the only Brazilian state in which the species is threatened. The discovery highlights the importance of urban green spaces for wildlife conservation.

“It highlights the importance of urban green spaces for wildlife conservation, since these spaces can furnish corridors or stepping-stones, enabling migration and reducing isolation of populations in increasingly fragmented landscapes,” wrote the researchers. “This is very important for defining appropriate conservation measurements for endangered species, especially beyond protected areas.”

The study – a partnership between the Canoas Airbase and La Salle University – was led by Dr. Cristina Vargas Cademartori.  The findings are published in the open access journal Neotropical Biology and Conservation.

By Katherine Bucko, Staff Writer

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