In Botswana, the central and south-western arid Kalahari system has proved to provide viable habitats for significant populations of the African wild dog. This study is being undertaken in the south-western areas of Botswana, led by Botilo Tshimologo, and aims to determine the importance of the southern Kalahari region for wild dogs. Having done so and running parallel with this study, actions will be conducted in partnership with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) and other NGOs that aims to mitigate any threats to the wild dog population resident there.
As much of the wild dog range in the Kalahari is outside protected areas, there is a significant land-use induced human-wildlife conflict in the southern Kalahari due to increasing levels of livestock farming. This project aims to understand African wild dogs’ adaptive strategies in the Kalahari ecosystem in a quest to promote evidence-based management and conservation of this endangered species. It is also hoped to ultimately promote more tolerance by the farmers towards wild dogs.
Researcher: Botilo Thato Tshimologo
Wild dog experts have debated for decades as to why wild dogs appear not to “persevere” in the southern Kalahari in any significant numbers and why they are rarely sighted in the far south-west (SW) of Botswana. It seems that the opposite may be true and a significant wild dog population may have simply been overlooked in this region. Large-scale carnivore spoor surveys that have been conducted in the area have indicated that the region is important for viable populations of wild dogs. More recently a pack of 16 adults has been seen in the area and a pack of 11 adults with 10 pups is being studied; this pack has a den site in the south and is thus out of presently-acknowledged or known wild dog range. It is also outside a protected area, denning in a Wildlife Management Area (WMA) to the east of Mabuasahube Game Reserve.
There is a limited understanding and no published literature on how wild dogs have adapted to survive in hot arid, water scarce environments. This study plans to fill that gap and provide a platform from which efforts to manage and conserve wild dogs in the SW Kalahari areas of Botswana can be implemented.
A key part of this study will help us to understand what effects high temperatures have on the ecology of wild dogs. It is also equally important to investigate the impact of aridity on wild dog spatial and foraging behaviour.
The team aims to change attitudes and perceptions of the communities towards predators like wild dogs which occasionally kill and eat their livestock. The success of this team’s mandate is very important to the sustainable management of an intact Kalahari ecosystem. The national strategy on conservation and management of species such as the African wild dogs will benefit from research-based evidence from this work.
- 1To determine the numbers and distribution of wild dogs within the SW Kalahari region of Botswana
- 2To determine how wild dogs in the region have adapted their behaviours and strategies to survive in a hot, arid water and game scarce environment.
- To engage communities in an effort to change their perceptions and attitudes towards wild dogs in order to be more tolerant of them. To further educate communities about improved livestock husbandry practices that can help reduce the amount of loss to wild dog depredation.
1. Wild dog distributions
Sighting information, spoor surveys and camera traps are used to acquire calculated density estimates and distribution of wild dogs in the study area.
2. Arid area wild dog behaviour, adaptions and strategies
This study combine movement and activity data obtained from satellite and other collars on study packs along with discrete observations. Combining technology with time spent with the study wild dog packs is aimed to elevate the quality of the findings of this study. Implanted temperature loggers are being used to measure body temperature rhythms of wild dogs to understand how they adapt to extreme environmental temperature changes.
3. Community Engagement
KRC has begun engaging with three communities in the SW and is using village Kgotlas as platforms to reach community members. The conservation education awareness work will be focused mainly on adults, aiming to set up adult education clubs and as well as reaching farmers who are based away from the village in “cattle posts”. In order to understand the best location to engage with people on the “issue of wild dogs”, there is a need to determine more precisely where the most consistent interface between wild dog and farmers is within the area. Targeted efforts can then engage with the most appropriate farmers and communities.