Windhoek — Serious public education and information is needed for farmers and the general public to understand the importance of preserving the endangered African wild dog in Namibia, as well as the rest of the world.
To date, it is not even known how many wild dogs exist in the country. However, estimates are that anything between 160 to 600 wild dogs still survive in Namibia.
According to the Director of N/a’an ku sê Foundation, Dr Rudie van Vuuren, wild dogs are very sensitive to their habitat, especially if their habitat is destroyed.
Human-wildlife conflict (HWC) is one of the main reasons given for the decline of the wild dog.
“People have the perception that wild dogs kill their animals, but not all wild dogs prey on livestock,” Van Vuuren said.
Wild dogs mostly prey on medium-sized game such as impala, steenbok, springbok and duiker.
“If you have wild dogs on your farm and it does not kill your livestock, it is beneficial for the farmer.
“Because it means the pack is not preying on livestock and since wild dogs are very territorial, another pack that could be preying on livestock might move in and kill your animals, if you kill the ones who do not prey on livestock,” the conservationist explained.
Van Vuuren made the remarks against the backdrop of the International Wild Dog Management Workshop, which brought together a number of experts on wild dog management and reintroduction with the goal of finding a solution to the rapid decline of the wild dog population.
The workshop, attended by scientists from all over the world, was addressing the issue of the captive population of wild dogs in Namibia and how to optimally manage them and subsequently successfully release them back into the wild.
Van Vuuren said the workshop also looked at how to educate farmers about the benefits of wild dogs, as action is needed to reinstate and rebuild the remaining local population before it is too late.
The N/a’an ku sê wildlife sanctuary is currently home to 13 African wild dog pups, which were found in June 2010 in a den in the Mangetti Strip of farmland in Namibia and were in need of a home.
Wild dogs are Namibia’s most endangered mammal species and second most endangered species in the world, after the Ethiopian wolf.
The wild pups are also very vulnerable to snake bites, especially orphaned animals that do not have protective parents or elders to watch over them.
Since it is also against the law to breed the animals in captivity, the only way wild dog numbers can be restored is when they are free-roaming, which currently is impossible, judging from the dangers that the animals face in the wild.
In addition, N/a’an ku sê provides a safe sanctuary for five lions, six leopards, 16 cheetahs, 15 wild dogs, six caracals, 34 baboons and a host of other orphaned and injured animals.
Other organisations that have wild dogs in captivity are Erindi and Okonjima, in the Otjozondjupa Region.
The African wild dog in Namibia is mostly found in the north-eastern areas of Khaudom and Tsumkwe, moving in from Botswana.