Conservation and Research
July 17, 2018

Why are African Wild Dogs so Endangered?

African Wild Dogs are endangered primarily due to habitat fragmentation, conflicts with human activities, and infectious diseases. The African Wild Dog population experiences fluctuations, making estimating their decline uncertain. Nonetheless, African Wild Dogs rank as the second most endangered carnivores in Africa, following the Ethiopian Wolf. In South Africa, their numbers dwindle to fewer than 550 in the wild, with only 39 distinct sub-populations remaining across the continent. These dogs require expansive territories for genetic diversity and sustainability.

The critical reasons why African Wild Dogs are so endangered are well understood. These encompass their susceptibility to habitat fragmentation due to their wide-ranging behavior, clashes with livestock and game farmers, accidental deaths from snares and road incidents, and infectious diseases. All these factors stem from human intrusion into African Wild Dog habitats, making the reversal of this trend unlikely across most of their historical range (according to IUCN).

Is poaching a reason why African Wild Dogs are so endangered?

A significant portion of the world's wildlife resides in impoverished rural regions. Poaching and the illicit meat trade thrive in many parts of Africa. Among the methods used to catch wildlife for food, snaring prevails. Although snare hunting is unlawful in nationally protected wildlife reserves in South Africa, it often results in unintended harm to endangered wildlife species.

African Wild Dogs are particularly vulnerable to becoming bycatch in poachers' snares. When one dog gets ensnared, the rest of the pack often returns, leading to more dogs getting caught if multiple snares are present. This could decimate an entire pack.

How do we help protect endangered African Wild Dogs?

The optimal conservation strategy involves providing ample space and suitable habitat for wild animals to flourish. Over the years, humankind's actions, including persecution, diseases, and habitat fragmentation, have led to the extinction of numerous species. As wild areas shrink and human populations grow, the situation worsens for African Wild Dogs and other wildlife.

Addressing misconceptions about African Wild Dog behavior and establishing new protected areas are essential steps. Monitoring these dogs aids in understanding their movements, demographics, and ecology. Tracking collars help detect individuals leaving protected areas, preventing conflicts and disease transmission from domesticated animals. Daily monitoring detects poaching incidents, injuries, and predation, providing data to evaluate conservation efforts.

African Wild Dog Monitoring

Below are the answers to some of the questions that we often get asked about the work being done to help save endangered African Wild Dogs.

  1. Wildlife monitoring is an effective way of keeping track of the movements of African Wild Dogs, understanding demographics, and learning about their ecology and population structures.
  2. Studying and recording behavioural, social, and feeding patterns of African Wild Dogs is beneficial for research purposes.
  3. Intensive, daily wildlife monitoring allows us to predict future movements and possible dispersals of individuals from their packs.
  4. African Wild Dog tracking collars allow us to detect if any individuals have left the confines of a wildlife park. This allows us to act immediately to bring them back, and helps prevent conflict and interaction with humans and domesticated animals. Disease outbreaks of Rabies, Parvo or Distemper virus passed on by domesticated animals, is another significant reason why African Wild Dogs are so endangered.
  5. Daily Wild Dog monitoring allows us to pick up on poaching incidences quickly, as well as injuries from fighting, snares and predation.

All this data helps to evaluate Wild Dog conservation efforts. Without it we have no baseline data for comparison. Information gathered allows for informed decision making around African Wild Dog conservation. If we understand the reasons for previous population declines, we can adjust management practices where possible. In doing so, we can help restore African Wild Dog numbers.

What can you do to help save endangered African Wild Dogs?

A lack of accurate and extensive data to help wildlife management make informed decisions around endangered species conservation, is one of the reasons why African Wild Dogs are so endangered. Wildlife ACT has been helping to gather and collate such data for the past ten years and has intensified this process by enlisting the help of wildlife conservation volunteers.

Those who participate in our Endangered Species Monitoring programme, are not only helping make a vital contribution towards Africa Wild Dog conservation, but towards other endangered wildlife species as well.

If the sizes of our protected areas were to increase and/or we were able to establish new protected areas, and/or greater buffer areas could be created around protected areas to minimise human influences, we could potentially manage this endangered species less intensively than we do now. But until that time, the conservation measures currently in place to combat the reasons why African Wild Dogs are so endangered, remain essential.

Learn more about African Wild Dog Behaviour, Monitoring & Conservation.

The Painted Wolf. Photo by Simon Watson (why African Wild Dogs are so endangered)

Read: How do we know an animal is Endangered?