A combination of a natural wanderlust and bad image among humans has driven African wild dogs from nearly two thirds of their original range. Their population in parks has plummeted to around 3,000 -- making them as endangered as black rhinos -- according to a recently released report by IUCN Species Survival Commission.
Authors Joshua Ginsberg of the Wildlife Conservation Society, headquartered at the Bronx Zoo, Rosie Wodroffe of Cambridge University and David Macdonald of Oxford University, found that even the largest parks can support only small numbers of wild dogs, which are distant relatives to wolves and jackals. Each pack uses up to 400 square miles, probably to avoid lions, which prey on both adults and pups, and can compete for the same prey species. In Kruger National Park in South Africa for example, just 400 wild dogs live within its 9,000- square-mile expanse.
According to the report, this tendency for the dogs to wander often puts them in contact with humans who have persecuted them since colonial days. Half the wild dogs found dead in reserves have been shot, snared, poisoned, or killed by road traffic. Wild dogs roaming outside of reserves meet up with domestic dogs where they fall victim to rabies and other diseases. Rabies has already caused the extinction of at least one wild dog population.
The researchers have proposed a series of conservation measures to ensure protection of the remaining population of African wild dogs. These include working with local landowners to minimize persecution and contact with domestic dogs. Inside protected areas and along their borders, the use of snares must be controlled, and new high-speed roads should be routed away from reserves.
"Wild dogs, more than any other species in Africa, show the difficulty of doing conservation in fragmented landscapes. Unless we are able to insure the integrity of Africa's protected areas, wild dogs will disappear from the continent. With the growing human needs of many African countries, balancing conservation of African wild dogs -- and other wildlife -- with development will be a real challenge," said Joshua Ginsberg.
Materials provided by Wildlife Conservation Society. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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