African wild dogs are vulnerable to extinction because they exist at low densities, range widely, and come increasingly into contact with people. Even wild dogs in protected areas frequently move in adjacent areas where people live. Grassroots conservation efforts beyond park boundaries are critical to prevent their extinction.
The African Wild Dog Conservancy has a community conservation project in northeastern and coastal Kenya, a biodiversity rich mosaic of protected areas and community lands under extreme threat. Due to past civil strife, little is known about the many threatened species there. This region is potentially a significant refuge for wild dogs and an important corridor for the metapopulation of the Horn of Africa, as well as for other threatened wildlife species. Virtually nothing is known about the conservation status and ecology of wild dogs in this region, including their interactions with people and potential impact on one of their prey species, the Critically Endangered hirola, Beatragus hunteri (as shown above). This project has been identified as a wild dog conservation priority by the IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group and the AZA/Wild Dog Species Survival Program.
A country in East Africa, Kenya (shown in yellow) straddles the equator and is surrounded on three sides by neighbors. Rich in biodiversity, but economically poor, the nation is challenged with balancing the needs of a growing population for land and conserving wildlife.
Located in the Ijara and Lamu districts of the Northeastern and Coastal Provinces, the study area (shown in yellow), consists of community lands and small national reserves, and lies with- in two Biodiversity Hotspots— the Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa and Horn of Africa.
This satellite image of the study area includes the Tana River (the nearly vertical green line). The Tana is the primary perennial water source in the region with swamps fed by flood waters that provide additional water during the dry season.
This pioneering project investigates the conservation status, ecology, and effects of cultural beliefs, traditional practices, and human activities on wild dogs in this region. A key component in sustaining wildlife and promoting a healthy environment is to empower local communities through hands-on training and to help community-based organizations establish education programs. Recently, conservancy staff trained community representatives in survey techniques and then set off with the team to interview villagers about their views of wild dogs, other large carnivores, and the environment. Our travel route took us to thick riverine habitat along the Tana River to just northeast of the remote village of Ijara in the the dry bush/woodland interior, and then south and southeast to villages in the lush coastal Boni Forest as far as Mangai, and the coastal town of Makowe. Plans are underway to expand the survey to help us understand the perspectives and concerns of local people.
Collect and analyze data on abundance and distribution, prey preferences with special reference to the hirola and domestic livestock, habitat use, demographics, genetics, and disease
Train local people in applied field techniques
Conduct trend survey of local attitudes and concerns about wild dogs in particular, and carnivores in general
Identify and prioritize threats to wild dogs
Create an internship program and work with community-based organizations to develop wildlife conservation education programs
Establish a sightings database for all large mammals
The project directly contributes to conserving African wild dogs by providing new scientific information on a potentially key population linking wild dogs in the Horn of Africa. Results from the project will be used to develop an African Wild Dog Conservation Action Plan in partnership with local, national, and international stakeholders, and to establish a long-term monitoring program with the Kenya Wildlife Service. As determined by the IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group, expanding habitat connectivity and long-term monitoring are top priorities for conserving wild dogs. By training and working with Kenyans, innovative community-based solutions can be fostered and implemented, and local awareness of the importance of the environment and wildlife conservation raised.