African Wild Dog Population Success in Luangwa ValleyFebruary 3, 2019
In an exciting win for wildlife conservation regionally, the Luangwa Valley now boasts the largest population of African wild dogs in Zambia.
The wildlife conservation spotlight has recently been shone on the Luangwa Valley in Zambia, as the population of African wild dogs – also known as painted wolves – here is now the largest in the country. Despite being one of Africa’s most endangered carnivores, wild dogs in this highly productive part of Zambia have enjoyed several years of active protection by the government and other organisations, which has resulted in an estimated 350 adults and yearlings thriving in the Luangwa Valley.
With fur that looks smudged with beige brown, black and white paint along with large radar-like ears, the African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) is easy to identify although not always widely spotted. This sub-Saharan African native carnivore is a highly social animal and hunts in packs for a wide range of prey such as buffalo, ostrich, hares and insects.
The Luangwa Valley is located in the southern end of the Great Rift Valley in Zambia’s eastern province and is made up of three national parks, namely the South Luangwa National Park, North Luangwa National Park and Luambe National Park. It is renowned for its high concentrations of animal and bird life, which thrive here due to the Luangwa River and its greater water system that creates fertile soils and lush vegetation.
Unfortunately, displacement due to habitat destruction both in Zambia specifically and Africa in general has placed major pressure on the survival of wild dogs, as they require large hunting grounds to sustain healthy populations. This, together with hunting and persecution by human neighbours, as well as disease outbreaks, have pushed the wild dog to endangered status on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as endangered. Sadly, in some regions in Africa, wild dogs have been completely wiped out and relatively stable populations can be found in just a handful of countries such as Botswana and South Africa.
This list now includes Zambia, and in particular the Luangwa Valley, in large part due to the collaborative efforts of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), the Zambian Carnivore Programme (ZCP), and Conservation South Luangwa (CSL). Successfully increasing the wild dog population in the Luangwa has required joint conservation endeavours to reduce the impacts of snaring, which has had devastating impacts on wild dogs in the past.
The impact of a snare on one wild dog can be felt and have devastating long-term consequences for the entire pack. If a key individual, such as an alpha dog, is snared and becomes injured or dies, this can lead to the pack dissolving completely, which puts the dogs at greater risk of early death due to starvation or hunting.
As a result of intense monitoring of approximately 150 to 180 wild dogs by ground-based field crews, aerial tracking and satellite-GPS collar technology, teams from DNPW, ZCP and CSL have been able to detect and treat snared dogs, thereafter, releasing them back into their natural habitat. The data provided by collared dogs is also used in anti-poaching patrols, which target snare removals in high snaring risk areas for dogs.
While this population increase is incredibly exciting and encouraging news, the future survival of African wild dogs remains relatively uncertain, particularly in areas where they are not as intensively protected. Such effective wildlife conservation efforts need to be taken to, implemented and monitored in other parts of Africa in order to grow healthy populations of wild dogs.
Zambia may be considered expensive due to the high compulsory park fees and conservation levies that are required to enter various wildlife areas. It is critical to understand, however, that these funds are used to support such important initiatives as keeping an entire species alive in that particular park or region. Going on safari is not only an incredible personal experience, the funds that are generated for the parks are essential in providing valuable assistance to wildlife conservation projects.
If you’re interested in finding out more about a safari in Zambia, contact us about tailoring an experience that will meet your travelling style, budget and wildlife expectations.
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