Abstract:

Habitat selection by dispersing African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) in northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa: implications for metapopulation range expansion

Brendan Whittington-Jones1, Dan Parker2 , Harriet Davies-Mostert1

1Endangered Wildlife Trust, South Africa
2Wildlife & Reserve Management Research Group Department of Zoology & Entomology Rhodes University

In northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, the intensively managed metapopulation approach to African wild dog Lycaon pictus conservation facilitated an increase in wild dog numbers from one pack in a single reserve in 1997 to 9 packs in three reserves by 2009. As a consequence, the likelihood of dispersing wild dogs leaving their natal ranges within fenced reserves also increased. Land outside these protected areas could potentially be utilized to expand wild dog distribution and provide connectivity between the geographically isolated subpopulations. We used Maximum Entropy Modelling (Maxent) to characterize habitat niche selection of dispersing wild dogs, and to identify potential dispersal linkages between subpopulations.
A habitat suitability model indicated that four variables (elevation, road density, land cover and human density) best predicted probability of presence for dispersing wild dogs, with elevation (AUC > 0.80) and land cover (AUC > 0.75) being the most important. Dispersing wild dogs preferred (presence probability > 0.7) lower lying locations (200 – 300 m a.s.l.) that were covered by either woodland or bushland (presence probability > 0.8). The wild dogs selected areas of zero human density (buildings/km2) but were most frequently found in areas with a road density of approximately 0.7 km/km2.
Susceptibility of wild dogs to lethal edge effects in fragmented habitats compounds metapopulation management complexity and the finding that considerable potentially suitable dispersal habitat falls within areas under some form of conservation management, is reason for optimism. Although dispersals between subpopulations were infrequent, the majority of such cases required intervention to mitigate potential, or perceived, game or livestock losses on communal or privately owned land. The development of formal linkages between subpopulations will require a sustained approach to improving tolerance towards wild dogs and consideration of the financial implications of co-management by adjoining private landowners of both prey resources and wild dog populations.

Presentation Topic

Habitat selection by dispersing African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) in northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa: implications for metapopulation range expansion

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