Famous for their peculiarly large ears and specific patterned pelts, the African wild dog is the fifth most endangered mammal in Africa. It is also the second most endangered predator on the continent.
Many aspects of a day in the life of an African Wild Dog are quite surprising. Like for example, they are some of nature’s most well adapted predators and when a pack goes on a hunt they have over an 80% chance of making a kill. Lions for example have success ratio of about 30% of every hunt they engage in. A uniquely special feature of the African Wild Dog is that, their fur markings are as unique as a human finger print.
According to one of the names behind the implementation of the Namibia African Wild Dog Program, Rachael Du Raan, “I personally relate to the African Wild Dogs incredible team spirit. They simply will not and do not survive without each other. They function solely as a pack, looking out for one another. It’s this idea that you have to work together to make things work that I have learnt from and applied to my life. I think us as Namibians could learn from them too as the more we work together the more we will succeed together.”
So why is it that these ultimate predators are seeing such dramatic population declines? Travel News Namibia notes that causes range from habitat fragmentation, prey loss, accidental snaring, and road kills. However the biggest threat to their survival is persecution and disease through contact with humans and domestic dogs.
Namibia has had a critically low population of wild dogs with current estimates putting their numbers anywhere between 300 and 600. This is why the conservation of these animals is fast becoming a priority for conservation groups in Namibia.
The Namibia African Wild Dog Program (NAWDP) was formed between the N/a’ankuse Foundation, Africat Foundation, and the Namibia Nature Foundation and supported by the Namibia Development Corporation and the Minstry of Environment and Tourism. It aims at getting a better understanding of the animal’s population dynamics and numbers within the Mangetti Complex.
The program outlines some of the reasons for the critically low populations in Namibia by highlighting areas such as :
1. Habitat encroachment – African wild dogs need large intact areas of habitat to survive. Currently the greatest conservation efforts have focused on protected areas, but not on other zones where Wild Dogs are most at risk. The highest presence of African Wild dogs are in the Kavango region, particularly the Mangetti National Park, but also the communal lands and commercial farms nearby. This area, known as the Mangetti Complex is considered a high conflict zone, but is nonetheless the only viable natural dispersal area. It is also seen as a potential corridor for Wild Dog migration from the east to Etosha National Park.
2. Human-Animal conflict – During denning seasons, wild dogs have the highest impact on livestock, when their dens become the centre of all their hunting activities. Wild dogs are actively persecuted because of the threat they pose to cattle. However, only 10% of cattle losses are accounted to Wild Dogs. In fact, Wild dogs have less of an effect on cattle numbers than even snakes. Perhaps this is the reason for changing attitudes from the livestock farming community, which sees more and more interest in the species.
3. Domestic Dogs – In areas where Wild Dog ranges overlap with human populations, there is a high chance of interaction with domestic dogs. The potential risk of infection from diseased dogs could be extremely detrimental to free-ranging Wild Dog populations.
The threats to African wild dogs are of serious concern. The NAWDP is continually working to advocate the need for domestic dog vaccinations as well as working with farmers to see to it that future conflicts can be avoided.
If you want more information or to support some of the initiatives of the Namibia African Wild Dog Program, get in touch with them here :