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Wild Dogs are listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List and are considered the rarest carnivore in South Africa with an estimated population of 550 individuals. In 1997, a Population and Habitat Viability Assessment (PHVA) Workshop for Wild Dogs was held to address the key threats. The following outcomes were met:

  • The Wild Dog Advisory Group (WAG) was established, under the auspices of the IUCN Caid Specialist Group.

  • The strategy was devised to form a second, viable population of Wild Dogs outside of the Kruger National Park

  • A criterion for reintroduction areas were workshopped.

  • The need for research into disease, genetics and metapopulation management was identified.

  • The importance of education and awareness was highlighted.

Two decades later, and WAG is still actively conserving Wild Dogs, supported by an interdisciplinary mix of participants that includes reserve managers, researchers, government officials, NGOs, and veterinarians. But with an increasing human population, conservation solutions for the species have become increasingly complex. This prompted WAG to adopt specialised groups in 2019 that include the veterinary, management, research, policy and public relations group. Each group has a representative that work with WAG coordinator and Chairperson.

WAG's goal is to ensure the long-term survival and conservation of the Wild Dogs in South Africa but also encourage biodiversity conservation. Biodiversity is a broad concept incorporating compositional, structural, and functional attributes at four levels of ecosystem organisation: namely landscapes, communities, species and genes. This encompasses not only the presence of Wild Dogs in an area but, crucially, the restoration of their ability to interact with other species and to alter ecosystems.

EWT's Wild Dog Range Expansion Project:

A metapopulation is defined as a set of discrete, geographically isolated populations of the same species that may exchange individuals through dispersal, migration or, when implemented as a management strategy through human-controlled movement. Implementation of such, human-mediated, metapopulations becomes necessary when individuals no longer have the ability to move between isolated patches or to re-colonize empty patches.

Much of the land that remains available for conservation forms a mosaic of patches that are too small to sustain viable populations and/or are isolated from each other. The conservation and management of small, fragmented populations has, therefore, become an unavoidable necessity. This phenomenon has forced wildlife managers to implement novel approaches to adequately conserve native species. In the case of wild dogs, even when they live in well-protected habitats with abundant prey, their naturally low population densities make them unusually susceptible to the combination of habitat fragmentation and random catastrophic events.

In the South African Wild Dog Range Expansion Project, individuals are moved between the reserves in an attempt to mimic natural dispersal patterns, to manage gene flow and maintain genetic integrity. Both wild-caught and, to a lesser degree, captive-bred individuals were used to establish the initial metapopulation packs. Single-sex groups have subsequently been moved between reserves when it was necessary to promote new pack formation or maintain genetic integrity though healthy gene-flow.