Small step for Namibia, huge leap for the African Wild Dog

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The Olive Exclusive – small and sumptuous
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It’s official: Namibia in midst of drought
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By Jana-Mari Smith

The African wild dog smells, to put it mildly, unpleasant.

Aesthetically not many would say that it ticks the boxes for a pretty face or body either. (We at Travel News Namibia think it’s adorable though!)

African wild dog (Okonjima Lodge)

African wild dog (AfriCat foundation)

But these cosmetic challenges are not why the African wild dog, Lycaon pictus, is in very serious trouble – in Namibia and the rest of Africa.

And although Namibia is the African wild dog hotspot globally (This includes the KAZA area) The African wild dog is the most threatened mammal and carnivore in Namibia. Some argue this applies for its status in Africa too, although it’s in close competition with the Ethiopian wolf for the number one spot of most endangered African carnivore.

While the exact numbers are difficult to determine, and according to some a wild guess, available research suggests that Namibia has less than 600 – even as few as 250 – wild dogs left in the wild.

And it is this shocking mathematical fact which has led a group of private and non-governmental organisations to spring to action in order to notch up the scarce research available on this carnivore.

African Wild dog - AfriCat foundaiton

African Wild dog – AfriCat foundation

The goal is to whip up enthusiasm and urgency around the world for the saving of the African wild dog – just as much as the world has staunchly supported the reversal of fortune for the black rhino and other media friendly endangered animal species.

Today, the Namibia Nature Foundation N/a’an ku sê Foundation, Namibia Development Corporation and the AfriCat foundation joined their considerable wildlife conservation forces in order to launch a dedicated Wild Dog research project in the north-east of Namibia.

“We need more information before we can decide what to do. We just don’t know enough. We first need evidence before we can make decision”, Rudi van Vuuren from Naankuse said today.

The research would also boost efforts to increase knowledge and understanding, and to change attitudes, towards the wild dog. Currently, it is seen as a, at best, nuisance, and worst, as a destructive pest which needs to be killed by any means and at all costs.

The study site is situated in the Kavango Region along the boundary between commercial farmland and Kavango communal farmland, to the east of the Etosha National Park.

The study area includes about 40 farms and covers approximately 200 000 hectares, where wild dog packs are regularly sighted and farmer-predator conflict threatens their long-term survival.

Wild Dog distribution map:

Wild Dog distribution map:

First on the to-do list of the wild dog team, is to set up remote camera traps, and to conduct an aerial wild dog count, Rudi explained. He said that the aerial count would also count prey numbers and elephants in the area.

Most importantly, the project can now begin to scout for the necessary funding needed to keep the momentum of the project speeding along.

Overall, the available research suggests that there are between 3 000 to 5 000 African wild dogs left in the wild today, spread throughout 14 countries.

The reasons for the extinction threat faced by the African wild dog are varied, top of which is it’s competition for food and territory with man.

The decline of the wild dog throughout the Africa is strongly linked to that of expanding human populations and fragmentation of the habitat available to the wild dog. Not only do increasingly smaller wild habitats mean less prey for the wild dog, but the encroachment of human’s whose domestic animals tag along, has meant ever mounting human wildlife conflict centred around a more easily accessible food source.

Wild dog pups

Wild dog pups

Moreover, as packs have been forced to cross over the borders of parks into land where livestock farming is taking place, the wild dog packs are subjected to road kills, disease from domestic dogs and increased contact with humans and domestic animals.

All this has led to an urgent need for more scientific data in order to secure a future for the endangered African wild dog. Without research, it is clear that a change of understanding and attitudes towards this vital carnivore will not change, and before we know, its presence will be wiped out forever.

This is not an option, because without the wild dog Namibia’s eco-system will be incomplete and broken.

For up up to date information visit

Written by Jana-Mari Smith
To contact me for any African Wild Dog stories or photographs to be published on our website, please send a mail via our contact form on the website or email




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