Center for African Studies
Human-carnivore conflict over livestock: The African wild dog in central Botswana
- Author(s): Swarner, Matthew
- et al.
African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) have been the focus of intensive conservation concern due a severe reduction in range, successive extinctions even in protected areas, and the endangered status of the remaining 3,000-5,000 individuals. Like many large carnivores, mortality due to conflict with humans, particularly control associated with livestock depredation, is a major cause of decline. Reversal of the decline will require mitigating the conflict, which in turn necessitates assessment of the problem and a more complete understanding of wild dog depredation behavior. I discuss depredation studies in North America and Europe that may inform wild dog conflict and behavior, although research on wild dogs and other predators in African contexts is urgently needed. Intricately linked to the negative values that many Africans hold for the species, wild dogs prey on domestic stock, including sheep, goats, cattle, and farmed game animals, wherever researchers have looked in human communities. The magnitude of actual wild dog predation is little studied, however. I propose to investigate wild dogs in livestock areas of central Botswana where a poorly known population exists across several land-use patterns and in conflict with human communities. By understanding the conditions in which wild dogs prey on domestic stock, conservation biologists, together with wildlife managers and livestock producers, can work toward preventing depredation loss or increasing local tolerance. Human-carnivore coexistence will be a major challenge in most African contexts where economic losses, even when small, can be significant to small-scale producers and lethal control can be convenient and effective.