Africa’s current wild dog population is estimated to be somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 individuals
African wild dogs were once distributed across much of sub‑Saharan Africa
WCS research aims to provide reliable baseline data regarding the number of wild dog individuals, packs and their range across the Ruaha-Katavi landscape
African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) have declined over the last century, accelerating in the last 30 years. They were once distributed through much of sub‑Saharan Africa but have now been extirpated from most of their range and are now extinct in most countries in West and Central Africa. In eastern and southern Africa, they are confined to a limited number of areas where human population densities remain low (Fanshawe et al. 1997). Africa’s current wild dog population is estimated to be somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 individuals (Woodroffe et al. 1997). Most populations, both outside and inside of protected areas, may be declining.
Tanzania is documented as one of the most important strongholds for wild dogs (Creel et al., 2004). However, little is known about the status of this species within and outside its protected areas, especially in the south and west of the country.
Wild dogs face numerous threats. Given their wide-ranging behavior, habitat loss is a major concern in many areas, including the maintenance of connectivity between key populations. The loss of prey species, especially in areas with low or no protection is also a concern, as is the risk of disease transmission between domestic dogs and wild dogs – including anthrax, rabies, and canine distemper in particular.
In the Ruaha-Katavi landscape, roadkill appears to be a significant threat and can only get worse as more public roads are upgraded over time. There is also a risk of retaliatory killing in a few areas where wild dogs have been observed killing small livestock, although this is not generally a common phenomenon.
Our main initial focus is to provide reliable baseline data regarding the number of wild dog packs, individuals, and range of different packs across the Ruaha-Katavi landscape. With a provisional 37 wild dog packs identified, it seems very likely that this wildlife stronghold is one of only three remaining areas in Africa where more than 500 adult wild dogs persist.
Our work must inform conservation planning at national and regional levels, as well as directing conservation action at landscape level. Raising wild dog awareness is certainly part of our agenda, as is the need to mitigate threats in various hot spots. Through collaring a limited number of individuals, we also hope to guide the conservation of the largest wild dog packs in the landscape.