African Wild Dog
Population and Habitat Viability Assessment
Executive Summary (excerpt)
There can be no doubt that African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) have declined over the last century, accelerating in the last 30 years. Once distributed through much of sub‑Saharan Africa, they have now been exterminated from most of their range. Wild dogs are extinct in most countries in West and Central Africa, and in the East and the South they are confined to a few areas where human population density remains low (Fanshawe et al. 1997). Today, Africa’s wild dog population probably numbers between 3,000 and 5,000 (Woodroffe et al. 1997). Most populations, both outside and inside of protected areas, still may be declining.
To address these and other problems facing the African wild dog, a Population and Habitat Viability Assessment (PHVA) Workshop for was held at the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria, South Africa from 14-17 October 1997. Thirty-five people attended the workshop (Appendix I), which was a collaborative effort between the Canid Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) and the Carnivore Conservation Group of the Endangered Wildlife Trust. The workshop was generously hosted by Mr. Willie Labuschagne and the staff of the National Zoological Gardens, and was facilitated by the IUCN/SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG). The primary aim of the PHVA was to develop a conservation action plan to improve the status of wild dogs in southern Africa. Of particular interest was the investigation of the possibility of using a metapopulation approach to management for the species. A second and linked priority was the identification of suitable conservation areas that could support an introduction program to establish additional populations of wild dogs, and the development of criteria for selecting such sites.
The workshop process took an in-depth look at the species' life history, population history, status, and dynamics, and attempted to assess the threats putting the species at risk.
To obtain the entire picture concerning the situation facing African wild dog, all the information that could be gathered was discussed by the workshop participants with the aim of first reaching agreement on the state of current information. These data then were incorporated into a computer simulation model to determine: (1) risk of extinction under current conditions; (2) those factors that make the species vulnerable to extinction; and (3) which factors, if changed or manipulated, including the development of “new” populations, may have the greatest effect on preventing extinction. In this case, these analyses included the examination of the development of reintroduced populations using founder animals from the existing wild populations.
Complimentary to the modelling process was a communication, or deliberation, process. Workshop participants worked together to identify the key issues affecting the conservation of the species and then dispersed into small, self-selected groups to discuss components of key issues which included: Management; Reintroduction; Disease; Human Interactions; and Modelling/Life History.