Divided we fail: the importance of social integration for the re-introduction of endangered African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus)

17 April 2007

In South Africa, a plan was launched to manage separate sub-populations of endangered African wild dogs Lycaon pictus in several small, geographically isolated conservation areas as a single meta-population. This intensive management approach involves the re-introduction of wild dogs into suitable conservation areas and periodic translocations among them. Here, we sought to evaluate the relevance of taking the formation of new reproductive units into consideration in promoting such translocation attempts. For this purpose, we analysed the behavioural process of integrating translocated wild dogs into new packs in pre-release holding facilities in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, one of the meta-population conservation areas. In addition, we reviewed findings from other wild dog translocation attempts in regard to the outcome of using variously composed groups and captive-bred animals for the artificial creation of new packs for translocation purposes. We show the importance of social integration before release for wild dog re-introductions and translocations to be successful. We also present a set of proximate factors, including management manipulation of social relationships, which promote pack formation in pre-release holding facilities. This demonstrably enhances the efficiency of costly wild dog re-introductions and translocations, thereby illustrating the implications of sociality for endangered species recovery.