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Survival of A Nomad: The African Wild Dog

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Although this article was originally published in January, 1997, the need for awareness about threats to wildlife remains the same.

Reprinted with permission from Frankfurt Zoological Society — Help for Threatened Wildlife.

There are probably less adult African wild dogs living in protected areas than there are black rhinos. It's most unlikely that there are more than 3000 to 4000 individuals south of the Sahara. Most of them belong to small packs which are widely dispersed in unprotected areas. As these areas do not provide enough prey, the dogs are condemned to extinction. 90% of their young die before they reach maturity. So the number of mature animals able to rear young is estimated not to exceed 2000.

Once, African wild dogs used to be distributed in 34 African countries. Nowadays, they have vanished (almost) completely in 19 of them. The species is severely endangered. Probably only 6 African countries hold populations of the African wild dog amounting to more than a hundred animals — the amount considered to be necessary for the survival of the species in the area. These countries are Botswana, Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania, South Africa (only in Kruger National Park), and Zimbabwe. Yet the stocks in these countries too are relatively small and decreasing in numbers as the dogs often live in relatively small groups which do not contact one another. The reasons for this enormous decline has to do mainly with conflicts with the human population: loss of living space, diseases, having to compete with other predators and loss caused by Āour wheeled predators on the tracks.

The African wild dog's way of life makes it difficult to observe and to protect them. They are true nomads who cover an area of between 500 km² to 1500 km². When they do not have any young pups they go on walkabouts & hardly stay in the same place for two nights. The vast spaces covered by the packs, their small groups & their extreme mobility make any kind of protection extremely difficult. Only a few protected areas are big enough for populations of 200 to 300 animals. That is why we have been looking after the stocks of the wild dogs in Botswana and the Serengeti for many years.

Editors Paw Note

The Frankfurt Zoological Society is well established as a nature conservation organization & proudly has a good reputation. The Society has been in existence for 137 years. In 1858, the Society founded the Frankfurt Zoological Garden and managed it until after WWI. Then the Zoo was taken over by the city of Frankfurt. The Zoological Society remained a principal sponsor for the Zoo. For the last forty years however, the Society has been increasing its international engagement in the conservation of nature and the environment. This is now the Society's main goal.

If you wish to help the Society help the African wild dog, Magellan Penguins in Chile, or the rehabilitation of Orang–utans in Sumatra, and do much more please visit their web site at

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