A new study on the elusive Short-eared Zorro dogs native to parts of South America's vast Amazon rainforest region indicates these rare canines are increasingly at risk.    

Rare Short-Eared Dogs Imperiled by Amazon Deforestation

Wild dogs in my Amazon rainforest? It's more likely than you think, though long-term prospects for the secretive Short-Eared Dog (also known as the Short-eared Zorro or Small-eared Dog) are fading along with their lush forest habitat.

Short-eared Dogs are canines belonging to the Canidae family but their unique characteristics led biologists to formally classify them as Atelocynus microtis – with “microtis” being the single species assigned to the genus Atelocynus.

Rare Short-Eared Dogs Imperiled by Amazon Deforestation

Short-eared Dogs can be found from southern Colombia south to northern Bolivia and eastward to north-central Brazil but their native habitat is highly fragmented due to forest destruction and development in the wider Amazon region.

Naturally shy and inclined to avoid humans, the Short-eared Dog's current range is shrinking as nations in the Amazon watershed – Brazil especially – actively explore the region in search of economic resources. Some of the Short-eared Dog's evolved attributes, such as partly-webbed paws that help it navigate swampy environments, hinder these creatures when they're forced out of the native wetlands.

Rare Short-Eared Dogs Imperiled by Amazon Deforestation

Listed on the IUCN Red List as NT (“Near Threatened”), the plight of the Short-eared Dog has recently been put into stark terms via a paper published in the journal Royal Society Open Science. In a nutshell, researchers from the Morona BMAP Camera Trapping Project point to deforestation in the Amazon as the prime risk factor affecting future prospects for the Short-eared Dog.

The researchers set up a network of camera traps in a variety of locales within the animals' current range. The cameras captured more zorros in lush, primeval forests and swamps compared to areas disturbed by human activity and degraded by deforestation. Based on these results, the researchers have recommended that IUCN adjust their rating from “Near Threatened” to “Vulnerable”. (via PhysOrg, images via eMammal)