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22 August 2005


New Article: The Cost Efficiency of Wild Dog Conservation in South Africa

The Cost Efficiency of Wild Dog Conservation in South Africa
Conservation Biology. Volume 19 Issue 4 Page 1205 - August 2005

Abstract: Aside from Kruger National Park, no other suitable reserves of sufficient size exist in South Africa that will hold a viable population of wild dogs (Lycaon pictus). Consequently, conservation efforts have been focused on creating a metapopulation through a series of wild dog reintroductions into isolated fenced reserves. Additional potential exists for conserving wild dogs on private ranch land. Establishing the metapopulation was an expensive process, accounting for approximately 75% of the US$380,000 spent on wild dog conservation in South Africa during 1997-2001. The principal goal of the metapopulation project was to reduce the risk of catastrophic population decline. Now that this has been achieved, we developed a uniform cost-efficiency index to estimate the cost efficiency of current and potential future conservation strategies in South Africa. Conserving wild dogs in large protected areas was predicted to be the most cost-efficient conservation strategy (449 packs/$100,000 expenditure). Establishing the metapopulation has been less cost efficient (23 packs/ $100,000), and expansion of the metapopulation was predicted to be even less cost efficient if predation by wild dogs results in additional costs, as is to be expected if private reserves are used for reintroductions (3-13 packs/$100,000). Because of low logistical costs, conserving wild dogs in situ on private ranch land was potentially more cost efficient than reintroducing wild dogs (14-27 packs/$100,000). We recommend that donor funding be used to reintroduce wild dogs into transfrontier parks, when they are established, to maintain the existing metapopulation and to establish conservation programs involving wild dogs on private ranch land. Investing in the expansion of the metapopulation should be limited to state-owned nature reserves willing to carry predation costs without compensation.

15 August 2005


Conservation status of Canids in Arabia evaluated in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

The Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife and the Environment and Protected Areas Authority of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates hosted the 6th annual Conservation Workshop for the Fauna of Arabia from February 19th to 23rd, 2005. During the workshop, delegates representing over 10 countries evaluated the conservation status of canids in Arabia, including golden jackal (Canis aureus), Arabian wolf (C. lupus arabs), blanford’s fox (Vulpes cana), Rüppell’s fox (V. rueppellii), and red fox (V. vulpes arabica). The last assessment of this kind for Arabian canids occurred five years ago.

Delegates pooled information on the distribution and population status of each species and identified key species-specific threats in the region. This information was used to develop research priorities and apply regional IUCN criteria to assess the conservation status of each species. Delegates categorized all species (except the red fox) as threatened in the region due to notable population declines since the last assessment:

Golden jackal – conservation status upgraded to Vulnerable
Arabian wolf – conservation status upgraded to Endangered
Blanford’s fox – conservation status upgraded to Vulnerable
Rüppell’s fox – conservation status upgraded to Endangered
Red fox – conservation status remained as Least Concern

Workshop participants also re-evaluated the conservation status of the striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena sultana) and upgraded the species’ status to Vulnerable due to notable population declines.

For more information on the workshop, please contact James (Jed) Murdoch (james.murdoch@zoology.ox.ac.uk) of the IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group or Peter Phelan (breeding@epaa-shj.gov.ae) at the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife (www.breedingcentresharjah.com), Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.

Posted by: Jed Murdoch


CSG Scientists call for urgent action to save the endangered Island Fox

Press release: 27 November 2003

We wish to express grave concern about current approaches to the management of the Island Fox Urocyon littoralis, a Critically Endangered species endemic to the California Channel Islands. Three island-endemic subspecies (all candidates for listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act), restricted entirely to the Channel Islands National Park and land owned by The Nature Conservancy, face an imminent risk of extinction if management is limited to the techniques currently available.

Island foxes suffered catastrophic declines in the northern Channel Islands, such that two subspecies are now extinct in the wild and a third, that on Santa Cruz Island, has a wild population that declined from ~ 1500 (1994) to 133 (1999) to perhaps as few as 65 this year (2003). These population crashes were the result of predation by golden eagles, which colonized the islands naturally in the 1990s. Eagles have foraged preferentially on foxes but are not sustained by them; substantial scientific evidence suggests that introduced feral pigs, deer and elk sustain the breeding eagle population.

As insurance against total extinction, the National Park Service (in partnership with The Nature Conservancy on Santa Cruz Island) established captive breeding facilities for all three subspecies. Breeding success has been low. Nevertheless, all three facilities were at capacity, and foxes were therefore recently released into the wild on Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz. These releases occurred despite continuing eagle presence on both islands, and continued eagle predation on wild foxes on Santa Cruz.

Thus far, conservation efforts for the remaining wild foxes have involved removing golden eagles by various non-lethal means. The skill and dedication of the staff involved are to be praised; in total 31 eagles have been live-captured and translocated to distant locales. However, despite months or years of effort, a small number of golden eagles (possibly as few as 4 birds) have evaded capture and remain on the islands. Eagle predation is still the major cause of fox mortality on Santa Cruz (35 of 40 radio-collared foxes found dead were killed by eagles), where the only wild population continues to decline. There is very little prospect of recovery of any of the three northern subspecies while the golden eagle population remains.

The next few months will see the start of a program to eradicate feral pigs from Santa Cruz Island. We support the need to remove the pigs: this is important to restore native vegetation. However, we caution that this operation could have devastating consequences in the short term. Eagles denied pigs as prey may well switch to more intense predation on foxes, including those recently released from captivity that likely are more naïve than their wild counterparts. Moreover, the presence of pig carcasses – an inevitable consequence of pig control – can be expected to draw eagles away from established bait sites and further reduce the efficiency of live capture.

Given these concerns we advise, in the strongest terms, that permission be sought to remove golden eagles from the northern Channel Islands by lethal means. Because lengthy administrative processes would be required to approve such permission, the need to pursue this option must be seen as urgent. Lethal control could be targeted at particular animals that have repeatedly evaded capture, or used under ‘emergency’ conditions should fox mortality rise in the course of pig removal. We fully appreciate concerns about killing a protected species that is emblematic of the wild places that conservationists seek to protect. However, we also recognize that, unless golden eagles are removed completely from the northern Channel Islands in the very near future, the prospects for recovery of the three northern subspecies are close to zero. We view this dilemma with the deepest regret, but can see no alternative to extreme action, due to the circumstances that have undoubtedly been brought about by earlier human activities.
More details on these recommendations, and data supporting them, are given in the enclosed paper.

Signed on behalf of the IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group:
David W. Macdonald, Chair Claudio Sillero, Deputy ChairTodd Fuller & Rurik List, North & Central America Regional SectionGary W. Roemer, Rosie Woodroffe, Robert Wayne, Cheri Asa & Linda Munson, Island Fox Working GroupScott Creel, Ecology & Research Working Group
For additional information contact the IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group, canids@zoo.ox.ac.uk, Tel. 00 44 1865 281264/427543


Rabies in endangered Ethiopian Wolves

Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme (EWCP)

Press release : 31 October 2003 : Addis Ababa

In the last few weeks there has been an outbreak of disease, confirmed as being rabies, among the Ethiopian wolves in the Bale Mountains. The Bale Mountains is home to the most important population of this endangered species that is endemic to Ethiopia. The current Ethiopian wolf population in Bale was estimated at 300 (of the global total estimate of 500) wolves. Since September 2003, 20 wolves have died in the Web valley within the Bale area. The Web valley is a critical core area that harboured an estimated 80 wolves prior to this crisis.

The first possible case was a thin and weak wolf sighted by park staff in August 2003 some 35km from areas in which the wolves live. This sighting was thought to be a dispersing female - such as those that are periodically sighted some distance from established packs. The wolf disappeared before it could be examined by staff of the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme (EWCP).

Wolves in the Bale Mountains are continually monitored by staff of the EWCP. The first suspicion that this was disease arose when four wolf deaths in the Web valley were reported on 09 October 2003. Since then, a further 16 wolves have been found dead in the same area.
In the past two weeks, all leading authorities in the area, including the EWCP, the Bale Mountains National Park, the Oromiya Regional Government and the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Organisation, have worked to trace the transmission route and spread of the disease. The disease seems to have entered the Bale Mountains from the lower areas of Arsi to the north, carried in by one or more immigrant domestic dogs. The dogs accompany people and livestock in their seasonal search for grazing. The team has also worked to comb the area for dead and/or sick animals, to carry out post mortems and take samples for analysis and diagnosis, to inoculate remaining unvaccinated domestic dogs, and to interview local communities for information on sick or dead domestic animals. All appropriate health and safety, and veterinary diagnostic considerations have been observed and necessary bureaucracy adhered to in gathering and transporting these samples.

Samples taken from the dead wolves were sent for diagnosis to the Ethiopian Health and Nutrition Research Institute (formerly the Pasteur Institute) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the USA. While the Pasteur Institute currently lacks the materials to test for rabies, the CDC confirmed the presence of rabies in all wolf samples sent to them.

A disease epidemic in 1991-92, coupled with some killing by humans, resulted in the deaths of three-quarters of wolves in the Web valley and two-thirds of the known Bale population at the time. While all the mortality in the Bale Mountains could not be explained by rabies alone, samples from the Web valley were positively diagnosed for rabies and it was thought that rabies was central to that crash in numbers. There are grave concerns that the current outbreak may become an epidemic that will spread throughout the whole Bale population and cause a similar significant crash in numbers. This is even more of a concern because the outbreak of rabies has coincided with the wolves’ mating season during which there are high levels of social interactions. This, in turn, accelerates the transmission of the disease.

The EWCP has been working in the Bale Mountains since 1995 for the conservation of the Ethiopian wolf. The EWCP works with local communities and the Ethiopian government to implement a suite of activities including education, disease prevention (through vaccination of domestic dogs), hybridisation prevention (through domestic dog sterilization), strengthening protected areas, training and capacity building of Ethiopian institutions, promoting tourism, monitoring and research. The EWCP is based in the Bale Mountains and operates under agreements with the federal and regional governments in Ethiopia, and the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit of the University of Oxford, UK through which it is also closely connected with the IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group and a network of international experts on canids and their conservation. The EWCP receives its core financial support from the Born Free Foundation with additional funding from Frankfurt Zoological Society and Wildlife Conservation Society.

The EWCP has been vaccinating domestic dogs within wolf range in the Bale Mountains since 1996 in an attempt to reduce the risk of rabies, canine distemper and other canine diseases. Despite occasional reluctance among local communities to allow their dogs to be vaccinated, over 80% coverage of dogs has been achieved. Where resources allow, additional vaccination of dogs has been conducted in areas adjacent to wolf range, although coverage levels achieved were lower than within wolf range. The vaccination campaign has also benefited local communities by reducing the public health risk and economic cost of livestock loss associated with rabies. In addition to the vaccination efforts, the education and dog sterilization work of the EWCP has lead to a decrease in the dogs that ranged widely in the Web valley. Between 2001-03, the EWCP also carried out a detailed research project on domestic dog ecology revealing that there are no feral dogs in the Bale Mountains; all dogs are owned by people.

The EWCP is currently reviewing the options available to attempt to contain the disease. Advice and support has been sought from a range of specialist individuals and institutions including the IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group and Veterinary Specialist Groups. The decision making process is being meticulously logged. However, ultimately, the decision of whether or not an intervention to contain the spread of rabies in this critical population of Ethiopian wolves takes place lies in the hands of the Ethiopian authorities.

For additional information contact Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme at: ewcp@zoo.ox.ac.uk, Or: IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group, canids@zoo.ox.ac.uk, Tel. 00 44 1865 281264/427543


African Wild Dogs in Mauritania


I happened to have stumbled across your report on wild dogs in West Africa. I may have some information that would interest you. I was a volunteer for two years with the Peace Corps (the America development organization) in the extreme southern portion of Mauritania in a region known as the Guidimaxa. I was primarily based in a village about 7 km from the Malian border and 15 km from the Senegalese border. In my travels, I often saw what looked to be small packs of wild dogs. I've not much experience with wild dogs, but I can tell you that they looked nothing like hyenas, and looked different than the domesticated dogs of Mauritania and Senegal. The locals called them wild dogs, for whatever that's worth.

This village that I was based primarily out of was called Guemou, and was about 35 km south of the city of Selibaby. I also saw what looked like wild dogs along the Senegal River near the city of Bogue, much further west of the country.

I hope that you might find this interesting. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you wish.


Michael Richards


Rare Addis Wolf At Risk

July 8, 2002. The Ethiopian wolf - one of the rarest animals in the world - is being threatened by farmers using poisons to protect their livestock, campaigners told IRIN on Monday.

It is the first time that the wolves, listed by the World Conservation Union as "critically endangered", have been killed as a result of poisoning. Conservationists blame poison for wiping out most other wildlife in the country, such as lions.

"If the poisoning of wild predators continues in the Bale Mountains, the threat to the Ethiopian wolf would be devastating," said Stuart Williams, who heads the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme (EWCP).

"It is not only the fact that people are killing wildlife that is serious in this case," he told IRIN. "It is the indiscriminate nature of poison."

Only 500 Ethiopian wolves remain in the country. Most of these are in the Bale Mountains region in southern Ethiopia.

Williams said farmers were using poison to reduce the chances of their domestic livestock being killed and eaten by wild predators. In particular, they are targeting spotted hyenas which they blame for killing much of the livestock.

His team is currently devising a strategy to resolve the conflict between people and wildlife. They teach local farmers effective livestock husbandry, including the construction of enclosures for livestock to keep out hyenas. They also include the local communities in the management of the wildlife to ensure its protection.

The local authorities in Bale are now reported to be investigating the poisoning to ensure it does not continue.

Source: All Africa website


Last wild fox on San Miguel Island feared dead

Saturday, April 6, 2002 Associated Press (04-06) 19:55 PST SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (AP) -- National Park Service officials believe the last wild island fox on San Miguel Island may be dead. The loss, which is the latest in a series of about a dozen deaths to wild island foxes in the Santa Cruz and Catalina islands area, is troubling to biologists who say the island foxes are teetering on the brink of extinction.

"We can't afford that kind of loss," said Tim Coonan, a biologist with the Channel Islands National Park Service. Biologists stumbled upon the fox's pelvic bone and the remains of a leg on March 27. Biologists were troubled that no radio monitoring device was found near the carcass. The fox had been trapped once in 1999, but because tracking collars have a life span of 12 months, tracking the fox proved a difficult task. "We're 99 percent sure it's her," said Keith Rutz, field leader for the island fox recovery program.

With about 60 wild foxes currently on Santa Cruz, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began the process last year to list the island fox under the federal Endangered Species Act. There is also a 10-year, $5 million captive breeding plan by the National Park Service to increase the fox population.

Biologists point to the golden eagles that swoop down to feast on the foxes as the cause of the steadily diminishing numbers. While 14 golden eagles have been captured and relocated, four remain at large and continue to kill foxes, said Brian Walton, executive director of the Predatory Bird Research Group at the university of California, Santa Cruz.

The National Park Service hopes to improve the survival rate of the foxes with a captive breeding program on San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz islands that will send small batches of fox pups into the wild. The program's goal is to increase the fox population to more than 200 in order to prevent the fox from becoming extinct.

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