Population and Conflict Assessment of the African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus) in the Greater Mangetti Complex, Namibia
Submitted by Rachel Futter
Namibia Nature Foundation
PO Box 245
BACKGROUND & INTRODUCTION
The African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus) is one of Africa’s most threatened large predators, and currently listed as 'Endangered' on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (last assessed in 2008), with a free-range stock estimated at between 600-1000 packs (Lindsey & Davies-Mostert 2009; Woodroffe et al. 2004). Resident African wild dog populations occur in just 12% of their historical range within Southern Africa. However, 30-40% of the region is lacking reliable status and distribution data (IUCN/SSC 2007).
All large carnivores need extended areas to survive; but the social structure, ranging ecology and conservation requirements of African wild dog means they require vast intact wildlife areas to maintain population viability. As human populations encroach on Africa’s last wild areas, African wild dog can now only persist in countries with relatively low human population densities; this is as a result of habitat fragmentation, persecution, accidental snaring, road kills, disease, population size and prey loss.
The geographic range of wild dog in Southern Africa has experienced a staggering contraction over the past one hundred years, from a historical distribution formerly covering over 5 million km2, to less than 700,000km2 in 2007. Twelve percent of the total still appears to support resident African wild dog populations. Of the 10 countries in the region, only 22 populations are known to remain. The majority of African wild dog resident range exists outside protected areas on community and private lands yet the protected areas are often still the focus of most conservation efforts.
PROJECT NEED / OPPORTUNITY
From the records available it appears that African wild dog have been largely unable to maintain breeding range in commercial areas throughout Namibia. This is due to persistent unsustainable persecution levels and other ever increasing negative influences e.g. fast road construction, habitat fragmentation, conversion of wildlife areas, expansion of predator-proof fencing, prey reduction and disease.
Namibia’s vast scale, suitable rangeland habitat and low population density should provide near-ideal conditions for wild dog to maintain range. Nonetheless, numbers are uncertain and wild dog have and continue to be severely persecuted by landowners. Namibia’s free-ranging 'core' population is consistently estimated at low levels of between 300 to 600 animals, in less than 50 intact breeding units, of which most occur outside of formally protected areas (Stander 2003; Woodroffe et al. 2004; R. Lines, pers. comm.).
The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry has recently designated approximately 150,000ha of suitable African wild dog habitat in Tsumkwe District for small stock development, as well as another approximately 150,000ha in eastern Kavango adjacent to Khaudum National Park. This drastically increases the risk of human- wild dog conflict across much of the remaining African wild dog range.
In 2009, livestock farming contributed some 3.2% to Namibia’s gross domestic product (NCBS, 2009). This figure represents why potential conflict species are usually not tolerated, as well as the need to develop techniques to protect livestock from predation.
Unfortunately, there is no evidence that past outreach programmes have had any effect on farmer’s attitudes towards conflict species and a better understanding is needed of African wild dog numbers and population dynamics within the free-ranging population, in order to develop realistic and appropriate mitigation techniques. It’s hoped that this additional research will act as a vital baseline study which can then further contribute towards developing a National Action Plan.
The Kavango Region, including the Mangetti Complex, represents an area of known African wild dog presence, with frequent visual sightings (Stander 2003). Although the Mangetti Complex is considered a high conflict zone, it also the only area within Namibia that constitutes a viable natural dispersal area for wild dog, and is recognised as a potential (historical) corridor between eastern African wild dog populations and Etosha National Park. During the International Wild Dog Workshop 2011, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) identified the Mangetti Complex as an area of low-level sampling with regard to African wild dog research and a priority in terms of its conservation in Namibia.
Duration: Ongoing - Phase 1: 3rd Quarter 2012 – 3rd Quarter 2014
Principal investigator: Ms Rachel Futter – Namibia Nature Foundation
Study Area: The primary study area is the Mangetti Cattle Ranch (Lat/Lon: 18° 44' 9.96" (S) and 18° 34' 53.94" (E)), a government parastatal farm conglomerate in the Kavango Region, administered by the Namibia Development Corporation (NDC) who have granted access to the property for African wild dog research purposes. Mangetti Cattle Ranch is approximately 168,900ha in size and is comprised of over 40 individual farms predominantly for livestock production. The ranch also constitutes part of the western boundary of wild dog range in the country.
With government permission it is hoped to include the Mangetti NP into the study area in order to give a comparative analysis of African wild dog ecology.
To secure viable and ecologically functional African wild dog populations within all major habitats of their historic range as valuable components of development in Namibia.
Improve the status of African wild dog, and secure viable populations across their historic range in Namibia.
Both national stakeholders and the international African wild dog experts have identified the strong need to re-assess range, abundance/density and conflict involvement of the species for the free ranging stock. One of the main factors hindering effective African wild dog conservation remains the lack of information on their distribution and status.
1) Help establish reliable figures on the free ranging African wild dog population in Namibia.
2) Document the perceived and actual degree of human–wild dog conflict in the Mangetti Complex.
3) Develop a robust method of disease management (Mangetti Ranch).
4) Contribute towards developing a National Action Plan.
Objective 1: Help establish reliable figures on the free ranging African wild dog population in Namibia
The primary focus for Phase 1 is on establishing presence absence data for the African wild dog in the Mangetti complex. This will be done over an extended period of time and will include basic ecological parameters such as distribution and range use, group composition, movements where possible, breeding and prey ecology.
1.1 Remote camera traps as well as live stream cameras will be positioned at identified African wild dog activity locations e.g. previous dens, anecdotal observations, water holes and wildlife or livestock kill sites, as well as any other suitable location in order to document presence/absence as well as group structures.
1.2 Images will be used for spot pattern individual identification to document numbers, re-visit rates, pack sizes and change in group structures, as well as activity patterns.
1.3 If reasonable sampling efforts can be achieved, a Mark-Capture Recapture based study may permit density analysis.
1.4 Reliable spoor records will be GPS recorded and mapped to aid distribution and range pattern assessments.
1.5 Direct observations will be recorded and documented photographically to assist in population dynamics and ecology.
1.6 Where observation spans allow, notes on behaviour will be recorded and individual Africa wild dog will be assessed according to a physical condition score protocol.
1.7 Indiscriminate captures by the farming community will be utilised to fit a GPS satellite monitoring collar so as to document range use and movement patterns more accurately as well as to confirm livestock predation.
1.8 Biological samples will be taken opportunistically during the GPS collaring, from African wild dog killed by traffic on roads in the area and/or those killed through direct persecution. These samples will be used for DNA typing as well as being analysed for diseases commonly affecting the species as an indicator of the impacts on the African wild dog-domestic dog interface. This disease screening will include canine distemper, rabies, anthrax and Parvovirus.
1.9 Personal interviews will also be used to document anecdotal observations of African wild dog across the region.
1.10 As part of the larger ecological component of the study, faecal samples will be collected from verified dens or defecation sites to enable prey species identification.
1.11 Prey information will further be recorded at confirmed wild dog kill sites, including both wildlife and domestic species.
1.12 Due to the dense vegetation in the research area, vehicle based game counts are not feasible, however it is possible to conduct aerial game counts in order to assess and document natural prey abundance and composition. The Phase 1 estimate is based on 2 x 3hrs aerial survey (across 12 months) for game population assessments as well as locating possible denning sites. This will be used in conjunction with camera data analysis.
Objective 2: Document the perceived and actual degree of human–wild dog conflict in the Mangetti Complex
2.1 Regular farmer/landowner visits will be conducted in order to build positive relations within the community, as well as to determine perceptions, assess conflict levels (phase 1). From this discussions will begin for appropriate and realistic mitigation measures for example, improvements to existing animal husbandry practices. There is also opportunity to assess support for experimental techniques such as the bio-boundary concept for exclusion of African wild dog from livestock areas – trialled currently in Botswana (Phase 2).
2.2 Questionnaires (and field observation data sheets) will be used to document bio-geographical features of the study area e.g. water availability, fences, prey clusters, livestock management and distribution etc, as well as landowners’ attitudes and perceptions towards the study species.
Objective 3: Develop a robust method of disease management (Mangetti Ranch).
The NDC has expressed their support for developing a vaccination program for domestic dogs on the Mangetti ranch. Due to various limitations this is believed to be the most effective method of disease management.
3.1 In order to make a significant impact, a registered veterinarian will be brought in for three sessions over three days within a one year period. The programme will vaccinate against rabies, canine parvo virus and canine distemper and will include boosters.
3.2 These sessions will be important opportunities for community education and to build support for the project.
Objective 4: Contribute towards developing a National Action Plan.
The ultimate goal is to contribute this information towards the IUCN National Strategy.
4.1 Develop educational and mitigation (i.e. conflict prevention) procedures to help alleviate the existing level of conflict with, and negative attitudes towards, African wild dog.
4.2 The data and results of this study will be made available to the MET, local farmers, communities and other interested parties.
4.3 Collaborate with MET to standardise the survey data formats with those currently in use as well as the work of the Namibia Nature Foundation (last decade). Future surveys on African wild dog can then be incorporated and create a more comprehensive assessment at the national scale.
4.4 Mapping of relevant information will be done using ArcGIS software. Statistical analyses will be performed on questionnaire surveys as well as sighting data collected. With nearly 90% of African wild dog living in populations that span international boundaries, conservation efforts require trans-boundary cooperation. Data sharing is going to play a vital role in the conservation of the species; not only within Namibian organisations but with other members of the KAZA TFCA.
IUCN/SSC. 2007. Regional Conservation Strategy for the Cheetah and African Wild Dog in Southern Africa. IUCN Species Survival Commission: Gland. Switzerland.
Lindsey, P.A. and H.T. Davies-Mostert. 2009. South African Action Plan for the Conservation of Cheetahs and African Wild Dogs. Report from a National Conservation Action Planning Workshop, Bela Bela, Limpopo Province, South Africa.
Namibia’s Central Bureau of Statistics (NCBS), 2000-2009 National Accounts.
Stander, P. E. 2003. Carnivore Atlas of Namibia. Predator Conservation Trust, Windhoek, Namibia.
Woodroffe, R. J.R. Ginsberg, D.W. Macdonald, and the IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group.1997. The African Wild Dog - Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN, Gland,Switzerland. 166 pp.
Woodroffe, R., J.W. McNutt, and M.G.L. Mills. 2004. African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus) Canids: Foxes, Wolves, Jackals and Dogs: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN. Gland, Switzerland.