Text and Photographs Robin Lines
Text and Photographs Robin Lines
T he decline of the African wild dog, Lycaon pictus, has been well documented over the past 40 years. Distributed formerly throughout 39 sub-Saharan countries, today there are only about 6 600 animals left, inhabiting perhaps 14 countries. It has been endangered for about 20 years.
The wild dog’s decline reflects the expansion of Africa’s human population and the associated fragmentation of habitat available to wildlife. Because wild dogs live at low densities and have large home ranges, even “fragments” covering thousands of square kilometres will not support viable populations. Packs often range beyond the borders of parks into land utilised for livestock farming. Thus even normally protected populations are subject to road kills, diseases contracted from domestic dogs and depletion of wild prey. Like other large predators, wild dogs kill livestock under certain circumstances, and have been shot, snared and poisoned in most livestock areas, irrespective of legal protection.
Although numerous research projects have focused on the natural history and behavioral ecology of wild dogs in their remnant strongholds (predominantly in semi-arid protected areas), no research has been conducted on arid habitat populations under multiple land-use tenure systems. Moreover, very little rigorous data is available on economic impacts of livestock predation in comparison to other forms of stock loss throughout the wild dogs’ range.
Sightings of trans-boundary movements of large packs further emphasise the urgent need for research and the development of innovative management strategies for wild dogs in arid areas where the subdivision of land and conflict with farmers are major threats to wild-dog survival.
Carnivore-human conflict impacts significantly on wild dogs, so it is essential to achieve a better understanding of the genuine impact of predators, particularly endangered predators, and to find ways of mitigating the conflict. Only by evaluating the impact is it possible to determine the management strategies most likely to halt or reverse the wild dog’s decline towards extinction in Namibia.
Development of the highly successful Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) programme in Namibia has resulted in a broad expansion of communal conservancies. This has produced many opportunities for extension work and outreach projects assisting with equitable, reliable and wise use of natural resources. It is within this wider, long-term programme that the wild-dog project is grounded.
The Namibia Wild Dog Research Project in the Otjozondjupa and Omaheke regions of Namibia has its origins in the communal cattle and small-stock farming Herero community in eastern Namibia. This area is part of the central Kalahari system, a semi-arid savannah with no perennial surface water. People and their livestock are restricted to the western areas with boreholes and pipelines, and to the few ephemeral drainage lines that flow eastwards towards the Okavango system in Botswana. Large areas in the east are uninhabited or have a very low population density. The central study area is also part of a national CBNRM programme. This programme, through national policy and recent legislative reform, works to create incentives for communal farmers to conserve, manage and benefit from wildlife and tourism. The programme has three broad objectives:
The key to the success of this project is the active support from all those interested in conserving one of Namibia’s most endangered and charismatic species.
There are valuable opportunities for promotional project support and general donations towards the conservation of wild dogs.
For more information on the status of the African Wild Dog in Namibia read here: www.travelnewsnamibia.com/conservation/conservation-painted-dogs-life-on-the-edge/
This article was first published in the Conservation and the Environment 2004/5 issue (information has been adapted accordingly).