Community-based Conservation

African wild dogs are vulnerable to extinction because they exist at low densities, range widely, and come increasingly into contact with people. Even wild dogs in protected areas frequently move into unprotected ones where people live. Rangelands comprise about 85% of the land surface area in Kenya, and are largely inhabited by pastoralists. Wild dogs and other carnivores co-habit these same areas. The Conservancy has a community conservation project in northeastern and coastal Kenya, a biodiversity rich mosaic of protected areas and unprotected community lands under extreme threat. Due to past and present security concerns, however, little is known about the many threatened species that live here. This region is an important refuge for wild dogs, as well as for other threatened wildlife species, and an important corridor for the metapopulation of wild dogs in the Horn of Africa. Outside of this project, virtually nothing is known about the conservation status and ecology of wild dogs that live here. For this reason, the project has been identified as a conservation priority by the IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group and the AZA/Wild Dog Species Survival Program.

Map of Africa
Study area location
Close-up of study area
Kenya (in yellow) straddles the equator and is surrounded by five neighbors. Rich in biodiversity, it is challenged with balancing the needs of a growing population for natural resources and land with conserving habitat and wildlife.
Located in the Ijara and Lamu districts of the North Eastern and Coast Provinces, the survey area (in yellow), consists of community lands, national parks, and reserves, and lies within two biodiversity hotspots: the Horn of Africa and coastal forests of Eastern Africa.
This satellite image of the project area includes the Tana River (the nearly vertical green line). The Tana is the primary perennial water source in the region, with swamps fed by flood waters providing additional water during the dry season.

This pioneering project investigates the conservation status, ecology, and effects of cultural beliefs, traditional practices, and human activities on wild dogs in this region. A key component in sustaining wildlife and promoting a healthy environment is to empower local communities through hands-on training and to help community-based organizations establish education programs.

Project Objectives

  • Collect and analyze data on abundance and distribution, prey preferences with special reference to domestic livestock
  • Train local people
  • Conduct trend survey of local attitudes and concerns about wild dogs in particular, and carnivores in general
  • Identify and prioritize threats to wild dogs
  • Develop a wildlife conservation education program

The project directly contributes to conserving African wild dogs by providing new scientific information on a key population linking wild dogs in the Horn of Africa. Results from the project will be used to develop an African Wild Dog Conservation Action Plan in partnership with local, national, and international stakeholders. Expanding habitat connectivity and long-term monitoring are top priorities for conserving this species. By training and working with Kenyans, innovative community-based solutions can be fostered and implemented, and local awareness of the importance of the environment and wildlife conservation can be raised.

Wild dog pack hunting
Reticulated giraffe
Male and female ostriches
(Beatragus hunteri)
Reticulated giraffe
(Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata)
(Struthio camelus)
Camel caravan
Bob updates computer skills
Kim explains food chain
Kirk's dik-dik
(Madoqua kirkii)
Bob teaches data entry
Kim explains the food web

Wild Dogs in the Biodiversity Hotspot Convergence Zone

The African Wild Dog Conservancy is presenting new information on wild dogs in the biodiversity hotspot convergence zone that will be used for conservation planning. This is part of a larger continent-wide planning effort to help protect wild dogs and other carnivores.

What Local People Say

The first social survey of attitudes towards wild dogs and other large predators has been completed with over 200 villages participating and over 5,000 wild dog sightings. Attitudes towards wild dogs and other predators are largely negative because of concern for livestock and personal safety. Despite this, wild dogs co-exist with villagers with almost half of those interviewed saying they would not kill them.

Interestingly, the majority of villagers interviewed thought predators had no real value, but did not want them to become extinct, with some saying they should be left alone. For those who thought that predators had value, reasons included being an important part of their natural heritage, having potential economic importance, and consuming dead livestock. Many villagers qualified their responses, indicating that predators should be placed in a sanctuary or zoo and only those animals that kill livestock should be killed.

Although the role of predators in the ecosystem was not well understood, with over half of those surveyed believing that wildlife could not become extinct, most expressed some concern for wildlife in general and the environment. This belief highlighted the importance of working with local people to address a key question "How can wild dogs and and people co-exist for future generations?"

Predators and Livestock

Wild dogs were not considered a major cause of livestock losses. Less livestock losses attributable to them and religious injunctions against killing may help explain tempered tolerance. Spotted hyenas were far more likely to be blamed. Losses to lions and leopards varied regionally, while losses to hyenas, caracals, cheetahs, and jackals were found in all villages surveyed. Pythons and crocodiles occasionally took livestock as well.

(Panthera leo)
(Panthera pardus)
(Acinonyx jubatus)
(Caracal caracal)
Spotted hyena
Black-backed jackal
African wild dog
Rock python
Spotted hyena
(Crocuta crocuta)
Black-backed jackal
(Canis mesomelas)
African wild dog
(Lycaon pictus)
African rock python
(Python sebae)