by Joshua Ginsberg*
The African Wild Dog, Lycaon pictus, is one
of the most endangered
canids. This Canid Specialist Group survey of its status and distribution
lays the foundation for planning its conservation.
The following report is adapted from The African Wild Dog: An Action Plan for the Conservation of Lycaon. The Action Plan, edited by Joshua Ginsberg and David Macdonald, found its genesis in the Lycaon PVA [Population Viability Analysis] meeting that the CSG ran in Arusha, Tanzania, in March 1992. Originally the proceedings of the meeting were intended to be published independently of an Action Plan. However, after distribution of the PVA Minutes, it was decided to expand the scope of the proceedings and make a fully-fledged Action Plan.
A complete report on the status of Lycaon across Africa will be presented in the Action Plan, as will a complete bibliography for the species compiled by John Fanshawe and Joshua Ginsberg. In the following report I present a synthesis of data on the status and distribution of Lycaon in eastern and southern Africa since these regions were the focus of the PVA Workshop.
The single most important source of information on the continental status of Lycaon comes from the work of Lory H. Frame and John Fanshawe. In 1985, Frame and Fanshawe began a mail survey to assess the status of Lycaon. The results of this survey were the first concrete evidence that the species was in decline throughout much of its range. Unfortunately, the survey was never published in its entirety although it did receive wide circulation under the title of: African Wild Dog Lycaon pictus: A Survey of Status and Distribution 1985-88. The following status summary also incudes information presented by country representatives represented at the Lycaon PVA. The names of those collecting data and reporting at the workshop are listed after the country name.
Ethiopia, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, eastern Zaire.
Recent genetic and morphological analysis by Dr. R. Wayne, D. Girman, and colleagues has shown that eastern and southern wild dogs are distinct sub-species. Without a doubt, of these two sub-species the eastern is in far greater danger of extintinction and has been extirpated over much of its former range. In three countries - Uganda, Rwanda and eastern Zaire - the species has been completely extirpated, except for, perhaps, a small relict population in Upemba NP, Zaire. Recent surveys throughout Uganda confirm extirpation. In the Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia, poor information and long-term civil strife have made ecological assessment difficult. Nonetheless, some data are available for these countries. What these data suggest is that no single population of Lycaon in these countries has any long term prospect for survival. Although the data may be incomplete, the prospects are poor generally.
In some areas in eastern Africa, particularly in the larger national parks in Zaire (Virunga NP, Garamba NP, Upemba NP), Rwanda (Akagera NP) and Uganda, the prospect of translocation or reintroduction of Lycaon has been mooted. Although this option is discussed to a much greater extent in the Action Plan, a brief digression is probably warranted. Although wild dogs, or any social carnivore, can be reintroduced from captive stock, success in this venture is poor. In addition, given the sub-specific differences recently elaborated by Girman, Wayne, and collaborators, the need for a source of animals from eastern Africa is a critical limiting factor. The soon to be published studbook for Lycaon shows that all Lycaon in captivity are of southern African origin. In addition, various aspects of Lycaon sociality and ecology suggest that reintroduction, or translocation, will not be an easy task. Hunting techniques, predator avoidance, and knowledge of hunting areas - all must be acquired by captive-bred animals.
In Somalia, relict populations may exist in one or two areas, particularly in the vicinity of El Hamurra and in the south of the country near the Juba River. No information has been forthcoming in the last two years, but Frame and Fanshawe suggest that the woodlands south of Mogadishu have the greatest potential for supporting viable numbers of wild dogs and other wildlife populations in Somalia.
Sudan, like Somalia, is a war zone from which few data are collected, or have been collected in recent years. Recent reports, however, confirm that despite there still being prey available in some areas, Lycaon, and all other large carnivores, have been virtually extirpated over much of the country. The Nile floodplain, or Sudd, Boma National Park, and other areas in the south of the Sudan may support a small population, but no data are available. The only recent survey available for the Jebel Marra (12·50?N, 24·E) reports that wild dogs are extirpated.
Lycaon, although enjoying a wider distribution in Ethiopia than the critically endangered Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis), is declining throughout its former range in Ethiopia. Lycaon has been reported from a few national parks and reserves including Gambella NP (rare), Bale Mountains NP, Omo NP (±15 individuals), Mago NP (·commonº - up to five packs present). In addition to these sightings, occasional sightings outside protected areas are reported.
(Ms. Kathy Alexander, Dr. Pieter Kat, Kenya Wildlife Service)
In Kenya and Tanzania, the quality of information on the status and distribution of Lycaon is relatively good. A survey by the National Museums of Kenya and the Kenya Wildlife Service (Pieter Kat et al.), following up on the work of Frame and Fanshawe, suggests that the status of Lycaon in Kenya has changed little over the last decade. Populations are thinly dispersed, widespread, and believed to be panmictic. In comparison with many parts of southern Africa and Tanzania, where the greatest numbers of the species are found in protected areas, Lycaon in Kenya appear to be found predominantly outside protected reserves and national parks.
Frame and Fanshawe suggest that as few as 15 packs roam widely over Kenya; recent data are less specific, but do not indicate that this estimate is unreasonable. The frequency of tourist visits to national parks and reserves, and the high density of research activities in Kenya give us a good picture of the occurence of Lycaon in Kenyaµs many parks and reserves. Sightings have been reported from South Turkana National Reserve, Sambu/Buffalo Springs, Kora National Reserve, Mount Kenya, Lake Nakuru National Park, Maasai Mara Game Reserve, Tsavo East, Tsavo West, the Dodori National Reserve.
In many areas, sightings are extremely infrequent (once per year or less). In other areas, such as the Masai Mara, population declines have been well documented. A six month study of Tsavo found that although wild dogs are still present in the north and east of the park, their numbers are declining and sightings are extremely rare. Monitoring and long-term research continue under the supervision of Pieter Kat and Kathy Alexander, National Museums of Kenya, and the Kenya Wildlife Service.
(Dr. Scott Creel, Mr. Gervase Moshe)
Tanzania offers the best long-term hope for the survival of Lycaon in eastern Africa. The long-term prospects for Lycaon in the north of the country are uncertain, and the decline and near disappearance of Lycaon in the Serengeti ecosystem does not auger well for long-term stability of northern populations. In the south several protected areas appear to support relatively large populations. Selous Game Reserve and the adjacent Mikumi NP may support the single largest population of Lycaon in Africa. Selous GR alone is 43,000km2. Wild dog density on a study site of 1536km2 in the northern sector of Selous is unusually high (1 individual per 12-15km2). Status in the Mikumi NP, contiguous with Selous G.R., is similar to that of Selous. In addition, sightings are reported in many areas bordering these protected areas (Kisarame and Rufigi districts, Runuwa region, Mbinga, Tindoro and Sengea districts). The Ruaha NP/Rungwa GR and adjacent Game Controlled areas also support a healthy population of Lycaon. Reports filed by the Project Manager of Rungwa/Kisigo G.R. estimate 20 packs for that area alone. In the absence of better data, an estimate of the total population size is in the range of 200 to 400 individuals. In addition, throughout much of southern Tanzania, occasional sightings are made outside protected areas.
Like Kenya, our knowledge about the status of Lycaon has benefitted from high tourist numbers, widespread concern among wildlife managers, and the efforts of individuals involved in wildlife research, and research on Lycaon in particular. Long-term monitoring of the population in the Serengeti continues by several people, and a research project in the Selous, under the direction of Dr. Scott Creel, should provide detailed information on the biology of the species in this region.
The status of Lycaon in southern Africa provides some hope for the long-term conservation of the species. Several reasonably sized (>250) populations remain. Many of these population are sufficiently proximate to other populations to allow dispersal, at least theoretically, between populations. After exhibiting a decline in numbers in the 1970?s and 1980?s there is even some scant evidence that populations may be increasing in some areas. The following reports, like those for eastern Africa, are summaries of those presented at the Lycaon PVA.
(Mr. Bart Van Depitte, Mr. John (Tico) McNutt)
Much of the data for this summary was collected by John Bulger in 1988/89, in a pamphletting survey with two objectives: 1) to estimate the distribution and density of wild dogs in Botswana and 2) to determine the extent of overlap with and depredation on domestic livestock in the region. There are three main areas in Botswana where wild dogs can be found. The most important area is in the north of the country, in an area of 176,000 square kilometres in the Ngamiland, Central and Chobe districts. This area includes the Okavango Delta and the Chobe-Linyanti River system, the Moremi Wildlife Reserve, Nxai Pan National Park, and the Chobe National Park. Rainfall in this area is approximately 350-700mm per annum.
The estimate of the population for this area is a minimum of 42 packs representing 450-500 individuals. Mr. J. W. McNutt began a study of the ecology and behaviour of Lycaon in this area in 1989 in the Moremi Game Reserve, with a study area of 2600km2 in a livestock free area. This area currently supports 13 packs totalling 109 yearlings and adults. Data from this intensive study suggests that Bulgerµs minimum estimates are reasonably accurate and almost certainly low. None of these packs live entirely within the boundaries of protected areas.
Wild dogs are also found in the Ghanzi District (Kalahari Ecosystem, Central Kalahari Game Reserve, area: 55,374 km2) and the Kgalagadi District (Gemsbok National Park and Mabuasehube G. R. - 26,038 km2) with an annual rainfall of 250-300 mm. The total estimate for wild dog populations in these areas is 100-200.
The Moremi study population is representative of the population in northern Botswana. Based on Mr. Bulgerµs estimates, and recent findings in Kruger National Park by Ant Maddock, they estimate more packs of 2?s and 3?s in Botswana, as these tend to be overlooked by the pamphletting type of survey. For example, where Mr. Bulger estimated a minimum of 7 packs, with an average of 8-9 adults and yearlings, the McNutts have found 13 packs with an average of 5 adults and yearlings. This trend may be consistent throughout Botswana. Based on this and supported by KNP's analogous finding, the wild dog population in northern Botswana might be adjusted upward considerably. In any case, his conclusion remains the same in that Botswana's wild dog population is broadly distributed throughout the country.
(Mr. L. Scheepers, Mr. C. Grobler)
At present, wild dogs occur in a total area of approximately 131,000 km2 of which only 9% has protected status. A survey of Lycaon, published by Hines in 1990, suggests that perhaps as many as 600 dogs presently exist in Namibia, mainly between the 300-500mm isohyet region in the east of the country, bordering Botswana. However, it appears that there may be as few as 300 individuals remaining. Recent sightings include 50 known individuals in five packs in Bushmanland (19·30?S, 20·E), 3 packs in Caprivi (18·S, 21-24·E), one or two packs in Hereroland (20-21·S, 20-21·E), and an unknown number of animals in the Kavango-Kaudom GR.
Reintroduction programmes of wild dogs into Etosha National park failed three times, largely because captive bred animals had been used. These animals have died mainly because of predation by lions, wrong timing of translocation, and disease. The Ministry of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism has decided to:
An integrated carnivore programme with the aim of creating a carnivore management plan was started in the Bushmanland/Kavango region in January 1992 by Philip Stander.
(Dr. M. G. Mills)
Lycaon, sometimes called the Cape hunting dog, is all but extinct in the Cape Province of South Africa. The last area of the Cape province supporting Lycaon is the Kalahari Gemsbok NP, where wild dogs are vagrants, packs occasionally visiting the area from Botswana. This habitat is marginal. Lycaon has been extirpated from Mountain Zebra, Karoo, Addo Elephant, and Bontebok NP.
In South Africa, Lycaon are found in two other regions. In the Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Complex in Natal a small population of about 30 dogs has survived after being reintroduced into the 900 km2 Game Reserve in 1980-1. A study of this population will begin in 1993. Kruger National Park (375 individuals present) is a large area of open/closed woodland with abundant prey, particularly impala. It is not clear what factors control the population, but it does not appear to be food limited. A detailed study on demography and factors responsible fo r mortality is at present being conducted in an area of 4,500 km2 in the southern district of the park.
(Mr. F. Munyenembe, Dr A. Tembo)
In an attempt to update the information on the distribution of the wild dog since the early 1950?s, a PVA population survey was conducted by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The distribution in the 1950-70?s, although concentrated mostly in the game reserves and protected areas, covered a much wider part of the country than is represented in recent years. The records from the PVA questionnaire survey (see table below) do bring some hope: although there is a general decline in wild dog sightings in Zambia the distribution could still be wide and the species can be saved from extirpation. The causes of death of the individual animals reported in the questionnaire survey include snaring (1 case), motor vehicle accidents (3), lions (1), and disease (1). The numbers of deaths are indicative only of the diversity of mortality factors facing Lycaon. Most of these deaths can be avoided with planning and the involvement of the public.
There is a general lack of research into the management and conservation of the African wild dog in Zambia. The data presented are only an indication of, perhaps, a viable wild dog population in Zambia. To confirm the actual status, there is urgent need to collect more information on the wild dog so that management and conservation efforts can be directed to those populations and areas worst threatened. A recent report confirms that Lycaon populations in South Luangwa NP have declined since the anthrax outbreak in 1987 and that there is cause for concern in this area.
(Ms. C. Davies, Dr. J. Ginsberg)
Lycaon populations in Zimbabwe are concentrated in four parts of the country:
The minimum estimate of wild dogs country-wide is approximately 386 dogs. There are probably no more than 600 dogs in the whole country. Data suggest that populations declined in the late 1970?s and early 1980?s and have been increasing since back to the 1976 level. They are increasing by about 6% per year country-wide and 7% per year in Hwange Park. Their range appears to be expanding particularly in the northern part of the country. Human attitudes and persecution remain one of the most serious threats to the conservation of this species.
* Joshua Ginsberg of the Institute of Zoology in Regent's Park London, was organizer of the Lycaon Population Viability Analysis meeting in 1992. His own research is on wild dogs in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.
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