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Wild Dog Project

Location: NTGR, Botswana
Members: 36
Latest Activity: Apr 5, 2013

Project Overview

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Project Overview
The endangered African wild dog was historically distributed throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa, but due to direct persecution and habitat loss, very few viable populations remain. Wild dogs have very large territories that range in size from 350 – 1000km2. As a result of these extensive territories, wild dogs occur at low densities. Conserving this wide-ranging species is thus very difficult, and requires very large protected area. The only self-sustaining and viable wild dog population in South Africa occurs in the Greater Kruger National Park ecosystem. The remainder are scattered across the country in several smaller reserves that are fenced and geographically isolated. This consequently precludes natural dispersal events (both emigration and immigration) that are fundamental in wild dog population dynamics. Intensive management is required to manage these meta-populations, necessitating periodic translocations to supplement gene pools.

The Northern Tuli Game Reserve (NTGR) in eastern Botswana is largely unfenced and borders South Africa and Zimbabwe. The reserve is scheduled to form part of the greater Shashe-Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area. Several dispersing wild dogs have been recorded in the reserve over the past couple of years. Dispersing animals are usually single-sex groups that leave their natal packs in search of other wild dogs. They form a new pack with dogs of the opposite sex, and in this way mate with unrelated individuals. Since there has not been a resident pack of wild dogs on the NTGR for several decades, dispersing wild dogs merely move through the NTGR and do not become resident.

In November 2007, 18 wild dogs were moved to the NTGR and later released in April 2008. The overall goal of the project was to establish a resident pack on the reserve. Since dispersing dogs still pass through the reserve periodically, it is envisaged that a resident pack will facilitate the formation of new wild dog packs in the region. Since these would be free ranging packs, they would not necessitate the intensive management associated with South Africa’s meta-populations.

This conservation opportunity presents itself as a result of the open ecosystem (no fences). How could one then open the enclosure’s gates and merely expect a pack of wild dogs, capable of travelling hundreds of kilometres, to become resident on the reserve?

In natural free-ranging populations, packs have large yet well-defined territories. Boundaries are communicated to neighbours using urine and faecal markings. Dr J.W. “Tico” McNutt, director of the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust (BPCT), first noticed the long-lasting effects of these scent marks in 1996 when four of his ten study packs died after an outbreak of rabies. It took several months before neighbouring packs probed and later filled the territorial voids. This sparked the idea of using scent marks to limit the ranging behaviour of wild dogs.

Prior to the release of the pack on the NTGR, scent marks were collected from one of McNutt’s study packs, frozen, and flown down to the reserve. These were strategically placed towards the periphery of the reserve in an attempt to create artificial territories. We refer to this as the BioBoundary: a biologically relevant boundary. This novel experiment has had great success, with the pack still on the reserve more than a year after release. The dogs have successfully raised 12 pups and will shortly have second litter of pups.

What makes the achievements even more remarkable is the fact that the relocated pack was removed from Marakele National Park after repeatedly breaking through the perimeter fencing and moving into the neighbouring farming areas.

The second part of the BioBoundary experiment is underway at BPCT’s head office in Maun, northern Botswana. A laboratory has been set up and in an attempt to unravel the key volatile odorants found in the scent marks and that are responsible for communicating territoriality. This complex component of the project is headed up by Dr Peter Apps, and the project is still in the early stages of development. Should these compounds be identified, they can be produced synthetically, making the deployment of scent in the field far more feasible. This groundbreaking approach would have great significance for the management of not only wild dogs, but also other carnivores and territorial species.

Previous Updates (Prior to the Blog)
Update number 13.pdf
Update number 12.pdf
Update number 11.pdf
Update number 10.pdf
Update number 9.pdf
Update number 8.pdf
Update number 7.pdf
Update number 6.pdf
Update number 5.pdf
Update number 4.pdf
Update number 3.pdf
Update number 2.pdf
Update number 1.pdf

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Comment by Craig Jackson on October 22, 2010 at 7:35am
The level of human impact on the wild dogs in Kruger is pretty low. In some places they do get caught in snares, but that does explain their decline. It may be due to fluctuations in certain ecological factors. For example, it has been found that wild dog pup survival is far lower (in Kruger) during periods of higher rainfall. This may result, for example, in the dogs bumping into lions more often as a result of thicker bush. Disease is not thought to be affecting the population. As far as I am aware, there is a plan to start researching and monitoring the Kruger population. Although its South Africa's only viable population, there has actually been very little research carried out there. Certain species are more prone to ups and downs in their numbers, and I think this is the case with the wild dogs.
Comment by LARS JOHANSSON on October 22, 2010 at 7:28am
Hi Craig and thanks for your answer. I am very sorry to hear that the number of the dogs have declined to just over 100 in the Kruger.
Isn`t that difficult to explain, in that park. What about the threats there ? Have you a good answer ?
What is your guess about the future for this dogs in this park ?
Comment by Craig Jackson on October 22, 2010 at 6:22am
Hi Lars,
The numbers in Kruger are actually far lower now. A census conducted last year put the number closer to 130 animals. At this stage the decline is not understood.

In total, estimates ranges from 3500-5500. The large variability in that figure indicates just how uncertain the figures are. The number of packs in viable populations would probably be a better measure of the species' viability.
Comment by LARS JOHANSSON on October 22, 2010 at 6:16am
I saw a video today from Africam, about wild dogs. That stated that there were about 2 - 300 dogs i the Kruger Park.
What about the total number in the entire Africa ?
Comment by Craig Jackson on September 30, 2010 at 1:00am
Hi Lars,
That work is very much on the go. It is an EXTREMELY complex task so will require some time. So far, so good - progress has been made and much has been learned. As they say, "watch this space..."!

See http://wildentrust.org/index.php?q=node/12
and http://www.restek.com/aoi_editorial_A013.asp#
for more info.
Comment by LARS JOHANSSON on September 26, 2010 at 10:37am
What about the laboratory attempt to create a syntetical scent of dogurine.
Are they still working with that or have they given up ?
Comment by lynty on June 25, 2010 at 8:55am
Craig, so sorry to hear of the unfortunate denning this year! Ler's hope the dogs come to their senses and return to the centre of their area - where they first were quite successful:)
Comment by Gaylen Morgan on June 5, 2010 at 1:48pm
Hi Craig, how is the pack doing now? I am also interested in the question Lars asked about how individual dogs survive when they break off from the pack and go off on their own? It seems like small numbers of dogs would be very vulnerable themselves to being eaten by other predators and would also have a hard time hunting without the pack. How do they manage during these solo times?
Comment by LARS JOHANSSON on April 15, 2010 at 1:43am
Hello Craig,
Wild dogs is fascinating me, I really don´t know why. May be their smartness and social life.
In a pack, you have told that some individual is leaving.
Since wild dogs always chasing together, how shall one single dog
succed in hunting and what kind of pray is in danger for this dog ?
Do you know anything about the survival for this dogs?
Comment by diane lischio on April 9, 2010 at 10:16am
We'll be visiting Mashatu later this year and found your group while researching the preserve. The concept of using bioboundaries is fascinating...have you established if/when the scent marks need to be replaced? It seems like under normal circumstances they would be "replenished" continuously.
We'll be in Mashatu in September. Are we likely to see the pack during our stay? Wondered if you're ever involved the the game drives led by researchers...would love to learn more about your project & wild dog behavior in general.
 

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