Conflicting human interests over the re-introduction of endangered wild dogs in South Africa.

22 February 2008

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. To assess the attitudes towards re-introduced wild dogs, we conducted a questionnaire survey of multiple stakeholders—local community members, private landowners and tourists—in and around Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HiP), one of the meta-population conservation areas. Here, we document conflicting human interests over the re-introduced wild dogs. Tourists in HiP, on the one hand, expressed overwhelmingly positive opinions about wild dogs across personal details of the respondents, but especially after having seen free-ranging wild dogs. On the other hand, we found misconceptions and perceptions that were more negative among the rural population around HiP, again largely independent of personal details of the participants, although educated respondents voiced more favourable views of wild dogs. These negative attitudes were in particular due to perceived and real threats of livestock losses. In a follow-up questionnaire survey, we also discovered apparent shortcomings of a previous short-lived conservation education programme among the local communities adjacent to HiP. Consequently, the mitigation of the conflict between wild dogs and rural people requires an understanding of the conditions under which livestock predation occurs, the encouragement of practices that prevent such predation, and increasing local tolerance of co-existence with wild dogs through both economic and non-monetary incentive schemes as well as continued conservation education.