Efforts going to the dogs? Evaluating attempts to re-introduce endangered wild dogs in South Africa

25 February 2008

1. We evaluated one of the most extensive efforts to date to re-introduce an endangered species: attempts to establish an actively managed meta-population of African wild dogs Lycaon pictus in South Africa. 2. Using an information-theoretic approach, known-fate modelling in program mark was employed to estimate the survival of re-introduced wild dogs and their offspring, and to model covariate effects relative to survival. Multiple a priori hypotheses on correlates of re-introduction success were tested (collated from extensive individual experiences) using different re-introduction attempts as natural quasi experiments. 3. Survival analyses revealed that the determinants of re-introduction success can be reduced to two factors relevant for management, suggesting that wild dog re-introductions should be attempted with socially integrated animals that are released into securely fenced areas, unless measures are implemented to mitigate human-related mortalities outside protected areas. 4. Synthesis and application. This study illustrates that monitoring and evaluation of conservation efforts, complimented with expert knowledge, forms the foundation of informed decision-making to underpin management recommendations with scientific evidence, particularly if the proposed actions are controversial.