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 into adjacent areas where people live. Grassroots conservation efforts beyond park boundaries are critical to prevent their extinction. Rangelands comprise about 85% of the land surface area in Kenya, and are largely inhabited by pastoralists dependent on livestock. Wild dogs and other carnivores co-habit these areas. 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 and present security concerns, however, little is known about the many threatened species that live here. This region is an important refuge for wild dogs and an important corridor for the metapopulation in the Horn of Africa. Outside of this project, virtually nothing is known about the conservation status and ecology of wild dogs that live here. This project has been identified as a 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 by five neighbors. Rich in biodiversity, it is challenged with balancing the needs of a growing population for natural resources and land with conserving habitat and wildlife.
The survey area (in yellow) consists of community lands, national parks, and national reserves, and lies within two biodiversity hotspots: the Horn of Africa and coastal forests of East Africa.
This satellite image of the survey area includes the Tana River (the nearly vertical green line), Kenya's longest river. The Tana is the major perennial water source, with flood waters feeding nearby swamps.

Project Objectives

This project investigates the ecology and effects of human activities, cultural beliefs, and traditional practices on wild dogs in this region by:

  1. Collecting and analyzing data on abundance and distribution, and prey preferences with special reference to domestic livestock

  2. Training local people

  3. Conducting a trend survey of local attitudes and concerns about wild dogs in particular, and carnivores in general

  4. Identifying and prioritizing threats to wild dogs

  5. Developing a wildlife conservation education program

Wild dog pack hunting
Reticulated giraffe
Male and female ostriches
(Beatragus hunteri)
Reticulated giraffe
(Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata)
(Struthio camelus)
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

The African Wild Dog Conservancy is presenting new information on wild dogs in the biodiversity hotspot convergence zone that will be used for conservation planning. This is part of a larger continent-wide planning effort to help protect wild dogs and other carnivores.

What Local People Say

The first social survey of attitudes towards wild dogs and other large predators has been completed with over 200 villages participating and over 5,000 wild dog sightings. Attitudes towards wild dogs and other predators are largely negative because of concern for livestock and personal safety. Despite this, wild dogs co-exist with villagers with almost half of those interviewed saying they wouldn't kill them.

Interestingly, the majority of those interviewed didn't think predators had any value, but didn't want them to become extinct. Some villagers said they should be left alone. Reasons given by those who thought that predators had value included being an important part of their natural heritage, having potential economic importance, and consuming dead livestock. Many villagers qualified their responses, indicating that predators should be placed in a sanctuary or zoo, and only those animals that kill livestock should be eliminated.

Although the role of predators in the ecosystem wasn't well understood, with over half of those surveyed believing that wildlife couldn't become extinct, most expressed concern for wildlife in general and the environment. This belief highlighted the importance of working with local people to address a key question "How can wild dogs and people co-exist for future generations?"

Predators and Livestock

Wild dogs weren't considered a major cause of livestock losses. Less livestock losses attributable to wild dogs and religious injunctions against killing may explain tempered tolerance towards them. Spotted hyenas were far more likely to be blamed. Losses to lions and leopards varied regionally, while losses to hyenas, caracals, cheetahs, and jackals were found in all villages surveyed. Pythons and crocodiles occasionally took livestock as well.

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