August 26, 2015
- as seen by -Galo Zapata Rios @WCS Ecuador
Short-eared dogs (Atelocynus microtis) are so mysterious and elusive that few people have laid eyes on them. Their local name in the Kichwa language of the Ecuadorian Amazon is sacha-allku (“jungle dog”), although sacha-samay (“spirit of the jungle”) would be more appropriate since their rarity makes them rather ghost-like; almost a myth of the Amazon.
A few years back, I had the unlikely fortune to see one of them in the wild along the banks of the Napo River, on the northern edge of Yasuní National Park in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The individual pictured here had gotten trapped in a cliff by a flash flood, enabling me to take pictures and observe it for several minutes from my canoe.
The short-eared dog is probably one of the rarest carnivore species in the world, and its geographic range is restricted to rainforests of the Amazon. The major threats to this species are habitat loss and diseases transmitted by domestic dogs. Since short-eared dogs favor undisturbed habitats, this sighting gives me hope for northern Yasuní – an area increasingly affected by oil industry activities.