African Wild Dogs (scientific name: Lycaon pictus) are listed as 'endangered' by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Their current population is estimated at 6,600, only 1,400 of which are considered mature individuals.
Wild dogs are very social animals, with a social structure comprised of 4-8 adults, 1 adult breeding pair, male and female adults that do not breed, as well as their pups (typically 10 in a structure). They are recognized by their unique brown, black and white coat patterns, as well as large ears. They hunt using cooperation in their social units and their diet primarily consists of: impala, wildebeest, and other medium sized animals with hooves.
From May to August (denning season), wild dogs tend to remain in one location within their home range. However, wild dogs are typically a wide-ranging species and up to two-thirds of their potential range falls outside of designated protected areas. It is the continued habitat loss and human encroachment that contributes to wild dog-human conflict, primarily, conflict with farmers over livestock and depredation from wild dogs.
Habitat loss for large carnivores leads to competition for space and food, as well as threats to human safety. As a result, humans often partake in retaliatory killings of large carnivores, the main cause of which is livestock depredation. It is these retaliatory killings that remain a leading cause of large carnivore population declines. This remains a significant challenge when it comes to conservation for African Wild Dogs, considering the wide ranges they need to thrive and the loss of their habitat leads them closer to shared spaces with humans.
It has been observed that farmers with higher levels of formal education are more likely to have positive attitudes towards wild dogs. Educating farmers of the nature and ecology of wild dogs would equip them to properly deal with and/or avoid conflict scenarios with them. Implementing techniques such as accompanying cattle during grazing and secure fencing would help farmers to be more proactive regarding their relationship with African Wild Dogs. Conservation education programs can help shift negative attitudes and develop tolerance towards wild dogs, considering many large carnivores hold potential value to local communities. Education that will ultimately lead to more positive attitudes towards wild dogs may have a more substantial long-term impact than simply focusing on preventing livestock depredation.
Therefore, effective avenues for conservation of wild dogs are: preventing further habitat loss and designating more protected areas for large carnivores like the African Wild Dog and providing education focused on wild dog ecology and conflict mitigation strategies for farmers so as to encourage coexistence.
Fraser-Celin, Valli-Laurente, Hovorka, Alice J., Hovork, Mark, & Maude, Glyn. (2017). Farmer-African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) relations in the eastern Kalahari region of Botswana. Koedoe, 59(2), 1-10.https://dx.doi.org/10.4102/koedoe.v59i2.1366
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Received: 26 Oct. 2015
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