African wild dogs on the verge of extinction?
African wild dogs live in very large territories and have a bad reputation among humans - the combination of these traits has reduced their population to around 3000 individuals, making them as rare as black rhinos and an endangered species. A study by the IUCN Species Survival Commission reports on the future of African wild dogs and the reasons for their endangerment. Joshua Ginsber of the Wildlife Conservation Society, Rosie Wodroffe of Cambridge University and David Macdonald of Oxford University have found that even the largest parks are large enough for only a few wild dogs. Each pack claims territories of up to 1000 square kilometers. They may be forced to avoid lions, which would otherwise prey on both pups and adults, and also compete for the same prey. Only 400 wild dogs live in the entire Kruger National Park in South Africa.
On their migrations, wild dogs often come into contact with the human population who have persecuted them since the days of colonial rule. Even today, half of all animals found dead on reserves have been shot, trapped, poisoned, or run over by cars. Wild dogs roaming outside the parks are victims of rabies, which they contract from domestic dogs. At least one wild dog population has already been completely wiped out by rabies.
Scientists have announced a series of conservation measures for the last remaining wild dogs. This includes working with local landowners to stop hunting and prevent contact with domestic dogs. Within protected areas and on their borders, the use of traps may only be controlled and new expressways should be built at a sufficient distance from national parks.
"More than in other animal species, wild dogs show us the difficulties of carrying out conservation work in fragmented landscapes," says Joshua Ginsberg. "If we are not able to connect the protected areas of Africa, the wild dogs will disappear from this continent. With the growing needs of people across Africa, balancing the conservation of African wild dogs – and other wildlife – with the development of the country is a real challenge.”
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