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African Wild Dogs Make a Comeback

  • Thursday, April 1, 1999

After many years of absence, African wild dogs, a threatened species, have reappeared in Laikipia, Kenya, says Laurence Frank, a biologist at the University of California at Berkeley. And local ranchers--who once shot and killed them at first sight--seem more willing to tolerate their presence, he adds.

The wild dogs, says Frank, who is conducting an AWF study on lions, hyenas and other carnivores in the Laikipia district, are not considered by Masai to be a threat to stock that is well-managed. "They are primarily a danger to the few ranches that have no predators and have stock in paddocks--in these cases,dogs can raise serious hell."

When wild dogs did attack livestock three or four years ago in Laikipia, ranchers made the effort to trap and relocate the dogs, under the supervision of the Kenya Wildlife Service.

Later male dogs raised in captivity were added to a pack of four females trapped in Laikipia and released in Tsavo National Park, where, for unknown reasons, they disappeared.

In related news, researchers say wild dog numbers are up substantially in the lowveld region of southeastern Zimbabwe. The animals had disappeared from the area after ranchers moved in in the 1930s. By the late 1980s, according to a report in the African Wildlife Update, ranchers moved their cattle out, and wildlife--including wild dogs--came back to the area.

A litter of 12 puppies born last year doubled the wild dog population in South Africa's Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve. The births occurred several months after two adult males and two adult females were introduced into the reserve.

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