The African wild dog is one of Africa’s most endangered carnivores. Having once roamed throughout the continent, this species now occupies only 10% of its original range and its population numbers around 6000 individuals (Ripple et al., 2014). The single biggest threat to African wild dog survival is human-carnivore conflict. Such conflict is commonplace for this wide-ranging species which regularly comes in to contact with humans and their easily predated upon livestock. The result of livestock depredation by African wild dogs is most commonly lethal control, which has led to severe declines in population numbers. Alongside this, threats which are common to all carnivores, such as habitat fragmentation, prey declines and climate change are all having a severe negative effect on the African wild dog population (Thirgood et al., 2005; Woodroffe et al., 2005).
The central Limpopo Valley is no exception and in addition to only a few vagrant individuals and dispersing groups which pass through the area from time to time, there has been no evidence of a viable pack of wild dogs being resident in the area in the past 60 years.
In early 2017, Mashatu Game Reserve reintroduced a pack of wild dogs to provide a safe haven for a pack originating from South Africa, but also to bolster wild dog numbers in the region as part of a managed metapopulation strategy. Ecologically wild dogs form an important component of any ecosystem. Being cursorial predators (as opposed to stalk/ambush tactics like leopards and lions) they weed out the old and infirm members of some of the more gregarious and abundant herbivore species, such as impala, kudu, eland and wildebeest. This firstly helps maintain the ‘quality’ of the ungulate populations in question and secondly, together with the other large predators, they help maintain these ungulate populations closer to their ecological carrying capacities.
Using GPS collar technology, we have been able to track the movements of this pack since their release in order to carry out post-reintroduction monitoring. Fundamental questions we ask in this study are to compare the spatial-temporal movement behavior of this pack to previously introduced packs, but also investigate fine scale habitat selection and how barriers, natural or man-made, impacts the movements of the pack.
Until human-carnivore conflict has been limited through awareness and education, we must continue to use post-reintroduction monitoring to expand our knowledge of African wild dog reintroduction conservation science. By doing this we can ensure that the African wild dog remains extant throughout the 21st century.