Ask most Kenyans if they have seen a Wild Dog roaming free in it’s natural habitat and the answer would most likely be a sound no! An increasing population and destruction of ecosystems has seen a sharp decline of one of Kenya’s most Endangered species.
Listed on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species, populations of the African Wild Dog are currently estimated at approximately 6,600 adults, of which only 1,400 are mature individuals. Wild dogs were historically distributed across most of sub-Saharan Africa, but now inhabit only 7% of their former range as a result of habitat fragmentation, conflict with human activities, and infectious disease.
The Kenya Rangelands Wild Dog and Cheetah Project, previously known as the Samburu-Laikipia Wild Dog Project, was established by ecologist, Professor Rosie Woodroffe, in order to address issues such as human-wildlife conflict and management of infectious diseases.
As many of you know, wild dogs disappeared from the Laikipian landscape in the 1980s, but by early 2000, some dogs had naturally recolonized the area. Rosie set up the Wild Dog Project in order to monitor this growing population and to explore if and how the canines could coexist with people and livestock. Over the next 13 years the wild dog population in Laikipia expanded exponentially with the project recording an almost 8-fold increase in the number of dogs.
The largest populations of wild dog remain in southern Africa and the southern part of East Africa. However, Laikipia’s wild dogs are likely to be the largest population entirely resident within Kenya.
In recent times, the Wild Dog Project has had to invest in new GPS tracking technology in order monitor intricate details about the health of this Endangered species. This has resulted in the successful monitoring of declining conflict between local communities and wild dogs. The technology has also allowed communities to know the whereabouts of the dogs so that livestock and property can be secured before any damage occurs.
Mpala Research Centre (MRC) is also helping to mitigate the loss of wild dogs through diseases control. MRC, together with LWF, and neighbouring conservancies have teamed up and are geared towards eradicating rabies from Laikipia through an annual exercise that will see the vaccination of thousands of domestic dogs, which are notorious for harbouring rabies. The Laikipia Rabies Vaccination Campaign has so far vaccinated approximately 5000 domestic dogs since 2015.
Although the Wild Dog Project has typically concentrated on ensuring that the canines are protected from habitat loss, persecution and domestic dog diseases, there is still lots more work to be done.
The next phase of the project is to continue working on finding out how seriously climate change will impact wild dog populations and which sites hold the best prospects for long-term conservation (including possible sites for re-introduction.
LWF will continue to work with MRC and County Government to support the next Rabies Vaccination Campaign in September 2017. We shall keep you updated on this very important initiative.
Have you spotted a Wild Dog lately in Laikipia? If so, we would love to see some pictures. Post them on the Laikipia Wildlife Forum FaceBook page here and don’t forget to let us know where the picture was taken. Make sure to include the hashtag #WildAboutWildDogs