Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Saving Africa's wild dogs -- with urine

Date:
June 20, 2014
Source:
The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
Summary:
The endangered African wild dog is increasingly coming into conflict with humans, partly because it is difficult to fence them out. But research shows that an unusual approach to keeping them away from people and livestock may offer hope. Promising experiments show that scent marking is more effective as a barrier than fences.

African wild dogs are not the same as domestic dogs. They were once numerous but now number only in the thousands.
Credit: Craig Jackson

The endangered African wild dog is increasingly coming into conflict with humans, partly because it is difficult to fence them out. But research from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology shows that an unusual approach to keeping them away from people and livestock may offer hope.

Africa's population is growing, as is its economy. Most people perceive this as a good thing, but it also has negative aspects, especially for certain species.

The endangered African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) is one of these species. In spite of its name, these are not stray dogs, like house pets run wild. Instead, wild dogs are a genetically separate species that cannot interbreed with domesticated dogs.

The situation for African wild dogs is similar to the conflict between wolves and humans in Norway and the United States. Even though the animals are protected, it means very little if people decide to kill them anyway, either out of ignorance or for economic reasons.

Enormous territories

Craig R. Jackson recently completed his doctorate at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) with a thesis on African wild dogs, where he discusses possible solutions to preserve the species. Promising experiments show that scent marking is more effective as a barrier than fences.

African wild dog populations were in good shape until a few decades ago. In the middle of the last century, there were 500,000 of them in 39 countries. But the species is in decline across nearly its entire range south of the Sahara. Today there are somewhere between 3000 and 5500 left, in fewer than 25 countries. That's roughly one per cent remaining, even in the best case.

Part of the problem is disease. But the one main reason numbers have plummeted so rapidly is because of the increasing number of conflicts between humans and wild dogs, as people expand into previously unsettled areas.

Wild dogs live in packs that range across huge territories. It is not unusual for wild dogs to travel hundreds of miles across these territories. The dogs usually live in groups with one dominant male and female, but packs may also break away. These break away groups are usually only composed of females or males.

More and more potential wild dog territory is being gobbled up by the huge growth in African cities. This has led to an increasing number of conflicts between humans and wild animals, especially at the interface between protected areas and inhabited areas.

Different dangers

Wild dogs thus face many threats. One of the main problems is that they go into traps that have actually been set up to provide "bush meat," or meat from wild animals. Others may be killed in traffic accidents or infected by diseases transmitted by domestic dogs.

But they are also killed intentionally, since they come into conflict with local interests, often farmers.

It is not uncommon for entire packs to be poisoned. Other times their dens are destroyed, with puppies that have been left in the den while the adults are out hunting. Jackson knows of dens that have been set on fire with young dogs inside.

It's not unusual for entire packs to be poisoned, or their dens to be burned out. Photo: Craig R. Jackson

Wild dogs and other predators may compete for resources, especially where the animals live in highly restricted areas. This was a factor that helped to eradicate a population in the Serengeti in Tanzania. Lions and hyenas can kill wild dogs, and account for as much as half of all deaths.

Unrelated neighbouring packs may also fight, increasing the likelihood that wild dogs will kill each other. Large packs do whatever they want in the territories of smaller packs.

Natural obstacles

One of the problems that makes it difficult to protect wild dogs is that conventional fences that keep other animals out cannot stop them. Wild dogs are simply too smart. They find a way around or under. A fence is simply not perceived as a barrier. But there are other possibilities.

"We're trying now with biological barriers," says Jackson.

Wild dog packs are loath to intrude into the territories of other packs. These territories are defined by urine scent trails. So the researchers and their colleagues collected sand that had been sprayed with urine by wild dogs and moved it near to other packs to keep them inside a certain area -- with success.

"We found that the scent marks from foreign packs kept the wild dogs from moving into those areas," Jackson said.

Scent markings thus prevent the packs from entering what they perceived as another pack's territory. Similar measures have been taken in the US to limit wolf territories. The method is, however, not completely problem-free.

"The problem is not to spreading the urine around. The problem is collecting it," says Jackson.

It's clearly very challenging to collect urine from wild dogs. Dr. Tico McNutt in Botswana is working on a project that is experimenting with creating artificial urine to keep wild dogs away from populated areas, in combination with traditional fencing.

Artificial pee may thus help save the African wild dog.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). "Saving Africa's wild dogs -- with urine." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140620103129.htm>.
The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). (2014, June 20). Saving Africa's wild dogs -- with urine. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140620103129.htm
The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). "Saving Africa's wild dogs -- with urine." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140620103129.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

AP (Sep. 20, 2014) The San Diego Zoo has welcomed two Cheetah cubs to its Safari Park. The nearly three-week-old female cubs are being hand fed and are receiving around the clock care. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) Considered a "national heritage" in Belgium, chocolate now has a new museum in Brussels. In a former chocolate factory, visitors to the permanent exhibition spaces, workshops and tastings can discover derivatives of the cocoa bean. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

AP (Sep. 19, 2014) A federal jury has convicted three people in connection with an outbreak of salmonella poisoning five years ago that sickened hundreds of people and was linked to a number of deaths. (Sept. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins