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AWF Trains Scouts to Monitor African Wild Dogs

  • Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Formerly widespread throughout sub-Saharan Africa, today just 3,000-5,500 African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) remain in the wild, with most populations still declining.

AWF believes that applied research and community outreach is crucial to understanding human-wildlife conflict and methods to alleviate persecution of this endangered predator.

A decade ago, African wild dogs were virtually wiped out from central Kenya, where AWF works in our Samburu Heartland. The wild dogs returned, and biologist Dr. Rosie Woodroffe wanted to know why, as well as the reasons for their disappearance in the first place. Dr. Woodroffe began the Samburu-Laikipia Wild Dog Project (SLWDP), which is now one of AWF's key partners in African wild dog conservation.

Working with research partners such as SLWDP and organizations like Namunyak Wildlife Conservation Trust, as well as local communities, AWF hopes to strengthen and expand wild dog conservation throughout the area, ultimately increasing their numbers and easing human-wildlife conflict. Currently, 12 scouts from five different communities are employed specifically to monitor wild dogs. AWF supplies these experienced trackers with the necessary equipment, including hand-held radios, GPS units, and scout salaries. In December 2004, four more scouts from the Kirimon community were outfitted and trained over the course of three days. Using radio tracking methods, the scouts were able to locate a pack of wild dogs that had recently given birth to ten newborn pups.

Equally important, AWF has initiated the necessary dialogue between local communities who live in wild dog areas and key researchers such as SLWDP. Opening dialogue channels between the different stakeholders keeps landowners informed and removes doubts about the research and consequences of wild dogs' presence. Because AWF has established good rapport with many of the communities within the area, research has been able to expand and advance into areas where wild dogs and their researchers were once unwelcome.

Currently, the population in Samburu Heartland is estimated at 150 wild dogs in six packs. Though wild dog numbers are slowly increasing, research and active participation of local communities is vital to help fully establish this small population, in order to make it viable well into the future.

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