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Namibia African Wild Dog Project Annual Report September 2013

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Project Name:

Namibia African Wild Dog Project

To conduct a study on Population and Conflict Assessment of the African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) with a focus on the Greater Mangetti Complex, including Mangetti NP.

Research Permit No.: 1735/2012
Principle Investigator: Rachel Futter
Co-workers: Dr Rudie van Vuuren, Dr Julian Fennessy, Tammy Hoth, Florian Weise, Wayne Hanssen, Marlice van Vuuren, Sydney Dirsuwei, Stuart Munro
Reporting Period: 03 September 2012 – 31 August 2013
Project Location: Kavango Cattle Ranch and Mangetti National
Park, Kavango Region
Author: Florian J Weise
Mapping: Joseph Lemeris Jnr. and Florian J Weise

 

Background
Addressing the significant paucity of information on Namibia’s free-ranging African wild dog Lycaon pictus population and its conservation needs, joint research work on this species in part of its remaining habitat in north-eastern Namibia was initiated in 2012. The Project is carried out by N/a’an ku sê Foundation, AfriCat Foundation and Namibia Nature Foundation. The Project is supported by Namibia Development Corporation (NDC), Go Green Fund, EUKANUBA Germany, GIZ Germany and each Project partner.

During Phase 1 of the Project, pilot surveys on African wild dog presence, prey availability, conflict potential, landowner attitudes and interface with domestic dogs were completed. The Project partners also contributed to the draft formulation of Namibia’s Conservation Action Plan for the African wild dog. The Project’s findings are shared with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) to supplement existing efforts towards study of the species. This report summarises research results during Project Phase 1.

 

Observations
A total of 36 verified African wild dog observations were recorded in the greater Mangetti Complex during Phase 1 (see Figure 1). The sample includes 22 sightings, 8 independent camera trap records (e.g. Plate 1) and 6 confirmed reports. Of the total sample, 8 observations (22.2%) occurred in a conflict context of livestock depredation. Moreover, 2 records (5.6%) involved road collisions with African wild dogs, including 1 possible fatal incident. An additional 11 occurrence reports were rejected because they could not be substantiated objectively. Auto-correlated observations were also excluded.

mangetti trail camera

Plate 1 - Group of 6 adult African wild dogs recorded with camera trap in Mangetti NP.

african wilddog observations aug2013

The spatial distribution of observations demonstrates that African wild dog utilise communal (n=6), para-statal (n=10), free-hold commercial (n=7) and government protected (n=13) areas (see Figure 1), and therefore all land tenure systems in the greater Mangetti Complex. The species can therefore assumed to be resident in the study area.

Reported African wild dog group sizes varied considerably during the pilot survey (see Figure 2), ranging from 1 to 17 individuals. This is mainly attributed to the fact that African wild dogs rarely can be observed for prolonged periods or be counted accurately during opportunistic encounters. However, and although preliminary, the greater Mangetti Complex appears to support, entirely or in part, at least 3 distinct groups of African wild dog. Further research is required to better understand this.

There are repeat observations of a group consisting of between 4-8 adult African wild dogs in Mangetti NP which also utilise the communal farms east of the Park, and possibly para-statal land west of the Park as well. This group was positively identified from 3 independent camera trap records inside the Park, and is believed to have denned successfully on communal farmland east of the Park in 2013 (M. Kaveto, pers. comm. 2013).

In addition, repeat records of a group ranging between 9-17 adult African wild dogs suggest the presence of a larger pack on Kavango Cattle Ranch (KCR) and on adjoining properties south-west of the Ranch. Anecdotal information indicates successful denning of this group in the area of Mangetti West in 2013 (A. Dries, pers. comm. 2013).

Finally, a group of 2-5 African wild dogs has regularly been recorded in several locations on the eastern farms of KCR as well as on the free-hold properties south of the Ranch. The group is assumed to split into 2 smaller units of 2 and 3 adults occasionally (S. Nel, pers. comm. 2013).

awd group sizes aug2013

Conflict
A series of structured land manager interviews on free-hold commercial farms in the vicinity of KCR together with repeat livestock depredation reports from communal farms around Mangetti NP (see Figure 1) indicate that African wild dogs are perceived as a nuisance and conflict species on stock production properties. About 20% of all African wild dog records during Phase 1 entailed confirmed livestock depredation incidents (e.g. Plate 2).

 

cattle depredationPlate 2 – Confirmed cattle depredation incident on KCR.
African wild dogs were observed chasing this cow into a fence, then feeding on it.

 

Land managers acknowledge that African wild dogs are persecuted opportunistically and indiscriminately in the greater Mangetti Complex. Anonymous interviews revealed that approximately 40 African wild dogs were lethally removed from commercial ranches between 2009 and 2012. Nonetheless, all respondents were aware of the species’ “endangered” status in Namibia. Moreover, there is a consensus among farmers that smaller, transient groups of African wild dog may be tolerated on stock farms whereas groups of 10+ individuals are actively persecuted, especially during the denning season when African wild dog activity becomes concentrated on individual properties and consequently depredation impact is perceived higher and localised (as shown for wildlife by Romanach & Lindsey 2008). In general though, interaction with the stock farming community in the survey area was largely positive during Phase 1 as respondents expressed strong interest in the species and demonstrated willingness to provide data regardless of conflict or non-conflict situations. Respondents further showed tolerance towards the species on properties where no livestock losses occurred or losses remained within acceptable economic thresholds. Opportunistic livestock predation by African wild dogs was generally accepted as an unavoidable effect of their irregular presence.

cattle mortality graph may2013

Monthly livestock registers from KCR, for example, also provide preliminary evidence that African wild dog currently do not pose a primary threat to livestock production (Figure 3), regardless whether cattle are almost free-roaming at extensive scale and co-existent with possibly 2 groups of African wild dog (see Figures 1 and 2). Annual livestock loss accounts for the Ranch confirm herder reports that African wild dog damage ranges around 10% of the total loss recorded, and other factors such as disease, snakebite and unknown causes of death have considerably more impact on livestock ranching than do African wild dogs (Figure 3). Cattle herders, however, acknowledged difficulty in differentiating between African wild dog-induced livestock depredation and that caused by other predators.

 

Prey Availability
Although African wild dogs can subsist on small prey species in ranching areas where large prey species have already been depleted (Woodroffe et al. 2007), they generally prefer a range of medium- to large-bodied ungulates such as greater kudu and impala (Hayward et al. 2006). Because prey availability may predict occurrence, successful denning as well as conflict levels, the Project assessed prey composition on KCR as well as in Mangetti NP during Phase 1. The results of the baseline aerial prey survey carried out on KCR are attached to this report. Repetition of this survey is planned for October/November 2013 and in forthcoming years.

Natural prey availability in Mangetti NP was assessed through a camera trap pilot survey conducted during 8 March 2013 – 13 July 2013. Total sampling effort was 263 trap days and nights across 5 waterholes inside the Park. Motion-triggered wildlife cameras were set to record 5 images per trigger event with an intermediate time-out of 20 minutes. During the pilot survey, the researchers employed a combination of Rogue Stealth IR, Cuddeback Attack and Reconyx 660HC camera models. This survey will be continued with 10 Reconyx 660HC cameras to further improve prey detections as well as African wild dog records. The survey will also be expanded to KCR waterholes to provide comparative prey base data.
awd prey species mangetti

Figure 4 - Relative African wild dog prey species availability in Mangetti NP as recorded with wildlife camera traps during a pilot survey in 2013. Note: As requested by the MET, black rhino detections were treated as camera malfunctions and are not considered in this sample, but please note that all information and data was provided to the MET directly.

 

The cameras recorded a total sample of 6,509 mammalian detections resulting in 5,172 independent records of target wildlife (i.e. medium- and large-bodied prey and predator species) (Figure 4). The sample represents 5,117 records of African wild dog prey species and 55 records of predators. Potential prey species in Mangetti NP include eland, blue wildebeest, impala, plains zebra, greater kudu, warthog, common duiker, steenbok, sable antelope, red hartebeest, oryx (gemsbok), aardvark, and giraffe (Figure 4). Competing predators in the area are spotted hyaena, leopard and black-backed jackal. Predator guild composition is the same on KCR whereasnatural prey species are limited to greater kudu, warthog, steenbok, common duiker and eland (cf. attached report).

Although prey availability assessments were carried out using different methodologies, the results show a significantly higher prey species diversity and relative abundance in Mangetti NP as compared with KCR. At this stage, reduced prey availability on KCR is mainly attributed to the combined negative effects of subsistence poaching, stray domestic dogs, limited surface water access for wildlife and resource competition with cattle. Confirmed African wild dog prey records in the greater Mangetti Complex included greater kudu, steenbok, warthog, cattle and eland.

 

African Wild Dog – Domestic Dog Interface
A large body of scientific literature points out the potentially negative effects of different infectious diseases on free-ranging African wild dog populations (e.g. Murray et al. 1999; Prager et al. 2012). Adverse pathogens, for example, include rabies virus (Gascoyne et al. 1993; Hofmeyr et al. 2000; Kat et al. 1996; Van Heerden et al. 1995), canine parvovirus (Burrows et al. 1994; Flacke et al. 2013) and canine distemper virus (Burrows et al. 1994; Goller et al. 2010; Prager et al. 2012). Transmission and mortality risk is accelerated in areas where African wild dog ranges overlap with those of domestic dogs (e.g. Flacke et al. 2013; Prager et al. 2012) as is the case on KCR.

To assess the potential risk of disease transmission between the species, the Project completed a domestic dog census and evaluated the vaccination status of these dogs in 2013. The Project interviewed dog owners at 30 cattle posts on the Ranch as well as at the Mangetti Village. The researchers recorded stated number of dogs owned, stated number of dogs vaccinated in 2013 as well as number of dogs observed on site (Figure 5). The results were cross-referenced with domestic dog vaccination records which were sourced from Grootfontein State Veterinary Service (Louw, pers. comm. 2013).

domestic dog census a 2013

KCR residents claimed a total ownership of 203 domestic dogs of which 171 were observed during the survey (Figure 5). Mean ownership per cattle post was 3.23, thus clearly exceeding the maximum ownership policy of 2 dogs per post. Only 8 cattle posts were in compliance with domestic dog ownership regulations. Moreover, juvenile pups (<6 months) were observed at 6 locations indicating further influx into the domestic dog population.

Domestic dogs were often encountered away from homesteads and without human supervision (e.g. Plate 3). Residents also confirmed that dogs are frequently traded between cattle posts and roam unrestricted in the environment. These dogs potentially interact with free-ranging African wild dogs and further pose a direct threat to wild ungulate populations. Commercial livestock farmers in the vicinity of the Ranch confirmed lethal removal of at least 15 domestic stray dogs in 2013, either through poisoning or shooting. Domestic dogs are perceived as a potential disease vector and danger to wildlife populations on private livestock farms.

 

domestic dogAccording to available records, 122 dogs (60.1%) were vaccinated against rabies in 2013. At present, domestic dogs in the survey area are not vaccinated against canine parvovirus or canine distemper. Considering the distribution and current lack of consistent management of domestic dogs on KCR, there is an evident need for more comprehensive and effective vaccination efforts if disease transmission from domestic dogs to African wild dogs is to be prevented. The Project prepares a structured vaccination campaign against rabies, canine parvovirus and canine distemper on the Ranch to address this issue.

 


Immediate Threats to African Wild Dog
Based on the results of the Project’s pilot surveys, domestic dogs in conjunction with direct persecution on stock production lands currently appear to pose the most immediate threats to African wild dog survival in the greater Mangetti Complex. This may be particularly significant during the denning season. Road collisions with African wild dog have been reported and possibly contribute further to pack disruption. Finally, habitat segregation and low levels of contiguous land management (as is evident from the diversity of land use and land tenure systems – Figure 1) ultimately dispose resident African wild dogs to a variety of direct threats including local prey scarcity, varying levels of persecution as well as pathogen exposure from domestic dogs.

 

Acknowledgements
The researchers thank Pieter de Wet, Wimpie Kruger, Hansman and Marianna du Toit and Schalk Spangenberg of NDC for significant logistical support during Phase 1. Moreover, the Project thanks Kenneth Uiseb, Dr Ortwin Aschenborn and Matthias Kaveto of the MET and Johan Swanepoel of AGRA for their support of and collaboration. The researchers further thank Dr Conrad Brain, Johan Louw and Dr Ian Baines for their contributions and assistance. The researchers thank all land managers who contributed to this study and Joseph Lemeris Jnr. for assistance with mapping.

 

References
Burrows, R., Hofer, H. & East, M.L. 1994. Demography, extinction and intervention in a small population: the case of the Serengeti wild dogs. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B. 256: 281-292.

 

Flacke, G., Becker, P., Cooper, D., Szykman-Gunther, M., Robertson, I., Holyoake, C., Donaldson, R. & Warren, K. 2013. An Infectious Disease and Mortality Survey in a Population of Free-Ranging African Wild Dogs and Sympatric Domestic Dogs. International Journal of Biodiversity, Article ID 497623, 9 pages.

 

Gascoyne, S.C., Laurenson, M.K., Lelo, S. & Borner, M. 1993. Rabies in African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) in the Serengeti Region, Tanzania. Journal of Wildlife Disease 29(3): 396-402.

 

Goller, K.V., Fyumagwa, R.D., Nikolin, V., East, M.L., Kilewo, M., Speck, S., Mueller, T., Matzke, M. & Wibbelt, G. 2000. Fatal canine distemper infection in a pack of African wild dogs in the Serengeti ecosystem, Tanzania. Veterinary Microbiology 146: 245-252.

 

Hayward, M.W., O’Brien, J., Hofmeyr, M. & Kerley, G.I.H. 2006. Prey preferences of the African wild dog Lycaon pictus (Canidae : Carnivora) : Ecological requirements for conservation. Journal of Mammalogy 87(6): 1122-1131.

 

Hofmeyr, M., Bingham, J., Lane, E.P., Ide, A. & Nel, L. 2000. Rabies in African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) in the Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa. Veterinary Record 146: 50-52.

 

Kat, P.W., Alexander, K.A., Smith, J.S., Richardson, J.D. & Munson, L. 1996. Rabies among African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) in the Masai Mara, Kenya. Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation 8: 420-426.

 

Murray, D.L., Kapke, C.A., Evermann, J.F. & Fuller, T.K. 1999. Infectious disease and the conservation of free-ranging large carnivores. Animal Conservation 2: 241-254.

 

Prager, K.C., Mazet, J.A.K., Munson, L., Cleaveland, S., Donnelly, C.A., Dubovi, E.J., Szykman-Gunther, M., Lines, R., Mills, G., Davies-Mostert, H.T., McNutt, J.W., Rasmussen, G., Terio, K. & Woodroffe, R. 2012. The effect of protected areas on pathogen exposure in endangered African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) populations. Biological Conservation 150: 15-22.

 

Romanach, S.S. & Lindsey, P.A. 2008. Conservation implications of prey responses to wild dogs Lycaon pictus during the denning seasons on wildlife ranches. Animal Conservation 11: 111-117.

 

Van Heerden, J., Mills, M.G.L., Van Vuuren, M.J., Kelly, P.J. & Dreyer, M.J. 1995. An investigation into the health status and diseases of African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) in the Kruger National Park. Journal of the South African Veterinary Association 66: 18-27.

 

Woodroffe, R., Lindsey, P.A., Romanach, S.S. & ole Ranah, S.M.K. 2007. African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) can subsist on small prey: implications for conservation. Journal of Mammalogy 88(1): 181-193.

 

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