Community Project

Community-based Conservation

African wild dogs are vulnerable to extinction because they exist at low densities, range widely, and come increasingly into contact with people. Even wild dogs in protected areas frequently move in adjacent areas where people live. Grassroots conservation efforts beyond park boundaries are critical to prevent their extinction. The African Wild Dog Conservancy has a community conservation project in northeastern and coastal Kenya, a biodiversity rich mosaic of protected areas and community lands under extreme threat. Due to past civil strife, little is known about the many threatened species there. This region is potentially a significant refuge for wild dogs and an important corridor for the metapopulation of the Horn of Africa, as well as for other threatened wildlife species. Virtually nothing is known about the conservation status and ecology of wild dogs in this region. This project has been identified as a wild dog conservation priority by the IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group and the AZA/Wild Dog Species Survival Program.

Map of Africa
Study area location
Close-up of study area
Kenya (in yellow) straddles the equator and is surrounded on nearly all sides by neighbors. Socio-economically challenged, but rich in biodiversity, the nation is challenged with balancing the needs of a growing population for land and resources with conserving wildlife. Located in the Ijara and Lamu districts of the North Eastern and Coast Provinces, the study area (in yellow), consists of community lands and small national reserves, and lies within two biodiversity hotspots: the coastal forests of Eastern Africa and the Horn of Africa. The satellite image of the study area includes the Tana River (the nearly vertical green line). The Tana is the primary perennial water source in the region, with swamps fed by flood waters providing additional water during the dry season.

This pioneering project investigates the conservation status, ecology, and effects of cultural beliefs, traditional practices, and human activities on wild dogs in this region. A key component in sustaining wildlife and promoting a healthy environment is to empower local communities through hands-on training and to help community-based organizations establish education programs.

Project Objectives

  • Collect and analyze data on abundance and distribution, prey preferences with special reference to domestic livestock
  • Train local people
  • Conduct trend survey of local attitudes and concerns about wild dogs in particular, and carnivores in general
  • Identify and prioritize threats to wild dogs
  • Develop a wildlife conservation education program

The project directly contributes to conserving African wild dogs by providing new scientific information on a potentially key population linking wild dogs in the Horn of Africa. Results from the project will be used to develop an African Wild Dog Conservation Action Plan in partnership with local, national, and international stakeholders. Expanding habitat connectivity and long-term monitoring are top priorities for conserving this species. By training and working with Kenyans, innovative community-based solutions can be fostered and implemented, and local awareness of the importance of the environment and wildlife conservation can be raised.

Wild dog pack hunting
Reticulated giraffe
Male and female ostriches
(Beatragus hunteri)
Reticulated giraffe
(Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata)
(Struthio camelus)
Camel caravan
Bob updates computer skills
Kim explains food chain
Kirk's dik-dik
(Madoqua kirkii)
Bob teaches data entry
Kim explains the food web

Wild Dogs in the Biodiversity Hotspot Convergence Zone

Word about the project is spreading, and that’s something in this remote region. Over 2,000 wild dog sightings have been reported. The AWD Conservancy is presenting new information on wild dogs in the biodiversity hotspot convergence zone, which will be used for conservation planning. This is part of a larger continent-wide planning effort to help save wild dogs.

What Local People Say

The first social survey of attitudes towards wild dogs and other large predators was completed. Over 150 villagers were interviewed in 31 villages. Attitudes towards wild dogs, lions, and spotted hyenas, are largely negative because of concern for livestock and/or personal safety. Despite this, wild dogs co-exist with villagers with almost half of those interviewed stating they would not kill them. Religious injunctions and less livestock losses attributable to wild dogs may explain tempered tolerance.

Paradoxically, the majority of those interviewed did not think predators have value, but did not want them to become extinct, with some villagers saying they should be left alone. Reasons given for why predators have value included being an important part of their natural heritage, having potential economic importance, and killing animals for villagers, as well as consuming dead livestock. Many villagers qualified their responses, suggesting that predators should be placed in a sanctuary or zoo, or only those animals that prey upon livestock should be eliminated.

Although the role of predators in the ecosystem is not largely understood, with over half of villagers believing that wildlife cannot become extinct, most expressed concern for wildlife and the environment in general. This ambivalence highlighted the importance of working with local people to ultimately address the question “How can wild dogs and people co-exist for future generations?” A preliminary attitude survey provided essential baseline data, and helped identify and prioritize realistic objectives for the next field season. Reports were given to partner organizations, the district commissioner, and project staff. Interviews are ongoing to increase the number of villagers and area surveyed.

Predators and Livestock

Although the final results are not in, so far the great news for wild dogs is that they are not considered a major problem in most villages when it comes to livestock losses. Unfortunately, spotted hyenas are considered a major problem. Surprisingly, in some areas hyenas, caracals, cheetahs, and jackals were reported to be taking more livestock, while losses due to lions and leopards were generally less common. The diversity of large predators will become increasingly threatened as the human population grows unless conflict and habitat fragmentation can be minimized.

(Panthera leo)
(Panthera pardus)

(Acinonyx jubatus)
(Caracal caracal)
Spotted hyena     African wild dog
  Spotted hyena
(Crocuta crocuta)
Black-backed jackal
(Canis mesomelas)
African wild dog
(Lycaon pictus)
African Rock Python
(Python sebae)