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Effect of landscape variables on the long-term decline of Great Argus in the rainforest of Southern Thailand


In Thailand, as for most of South-East Asia, large vertebrates are declining rapidly due to habitat degradation and increasing hunting pressure. Once relatively common in the evergreen forest of Southern Thailand, the Great Argus Argusianus argus is currently limited to a few populations, whose status is currently unknown. In this study we investigated changes in Great Argus abundance over the past 13 years in Hala-Bala Wildlife Sanctuary. Our aim was to estimate and compare the abundance and density of this species from an earlier two-year survey in 2001–2002 and ours in 2014, and to assess the effect of landscape change on its status of the species. We conducted surveys from March to August 2014 during the breeding season. We placed point counts that overlapped the line transects from the 2001–2002 survey. The results indicated a decline of > 35% in mean abundance from 2001 to 2014. In addition, male abundance has shifted and is now positively related to distance from the forest edge. High levels of human disturbance close to the forest edge may have resulted in the birds moving to the core of the forest, suggesting a need to increase protection and management of forest edge areas. In common with other studies of large vertebrates, our results confirm the importance of long-term studies to highlight the negative effects of human disturbance.

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