African Wild Dog Conservation

The African Wild Dog is increasingly scarce throughout the regions of South Africa, despite intense conservation efforts. After reading, The diet and presence of African wild dogs on private land in the Waterberg region, South Africa by Ramnanan and colleagues (2013), I found out the remaining population of the wild dogs reside on private land. I believe that it is becoming more important for conservationists to develop relationships with these private land owners in order to create more effective conservation efforts.

African Wild dogs were some of the most talked about animals on my recent trip to South Africa. They are a fascinating and elusive animal, which created a lot of questions about them. We were very fortunate to find a pack and track them for an extended amount of time. Watching the way they hunted as a pack and blended in with the brush was amazing. I think one of the most interesting aspects about the African Wild Dog is that they are such voracious hunters, yet the populations continue to decline.

When I returned from South Africa, I did additional research on the African Wild Dog and what I found was astonishing. The African Wild Dog is becoming extremely rare and, unfortunately for scientists, they are most commonly found on private land where their behaviors and population status cannot be studied. The current information on the wild dog is severely lacking. Most of the few published studies are vague and based on data that could be considered convenient rather than scientifically researched and discovered. In the Ramnanan article it states that wild dog scat was collected opportunistically along the roadside when setting up camera traps, which could act as a misrepresentative sample. Ramnanan and colleagues (2013) reported they were not allowed to enter the private land to observe these animals but they set up cameras to try to capture their actions with as much detail as possible. In addition to the photos, they observed the humans actions. The article was informative and factual, but when it came to the findings, they lacked important information needed for conservation efforts. African Wild Dogs are truly evasive and cannot be fully understood from only videos or photographs. In fact, findings in the article were mostly on diet, which was more of a replication of previous research rather than an addition to our understanding of the dogs. In order to create impactful conservation efforts, behaviors such as hunting, breeding, and survival tactics need to be studied more closely. Dr. Cheryl Asa from the Saint Louis Zoo has been working closely with the Stanford University Program for Conservation Genomics concerning the African Wild Dog. She stated, African Wild Dogs have been shown to have the highest rate of uterine disease of any wild canid species, which affects their fertility. Therefore; information on breeding behaviors are crucial to the conservation efforts. It is information like this that can be obtained from closely monitoring behaviors and actions of the African Wild Dog.

Overall, I believe to truly make an impact on the conservation of the African Wild Dog there needs to be a direct line of communication between the private land owners and the scientists and/or conservationists. The efforts of conservation groups can be effective through communicating with community outreach programs or even on a smaller scale at local town meetings. The effectiveness of conservation groups efforts would be greatly increased with only a small amount of communication. It is imperative that an open line of communication be opened if we want to prolong the lifetime of the species.