Climate change may be harming the future of African wild dogs by impacting the survival rates of pups, according to one of the first studies on how shifting temperatures are impacting tropical species.
Led by scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and published on 19 July in the Journal of Animal Ecology, the study highlights how African wild dogs — already classified as Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ — raise fewer pups at high temperatures.
Three concurrent studies, undertaken by ZSL, the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust, and the African Wildlife Conservation Fund, monitored a total of 73 wild dog packs at sites in Kenya, Botswana and Zimbabwe, over a combined 42 years of study.
Tracking with high-tech collars showed that wild dog packs spent less time hunting on hot days. When packs tried to raise pups in hot weather, more of the pups died, potentially because they received less food from individuals returning from hunts.
At the Botswana site, temperatures increased steadily over 24 years of monitoring. The average daily maximum temperature during the pup-rearing period was roughly , and over the same period the average number of pups surviving per pack per year fell from five to three.
Professor Rosie Woodroffe, lead author, ZSL’s Institute of Zoology
“Worryingly, this new threat may be affecting wild dogs deep inside wildlife areas where we would expect them to be protected from human impacts. With habitat fragmented and destroyed in cooler areas, wild dogs have literally nowhere to go. Sadly, climate change may bring extinction a step closer for this amazing species.
“Now our team at ZSL is focused on identifying conservation actions which might reduce these climate impacts on wild dogs, and working out where they are most needed.”
Building on this study’s findings, ZSL is conducting further research to explore whether and how climate change impacts on wild dogs might be mitigated. Find out more about ZSL’s conservation efforts for African wild dogs at Kenya Rangelands Wild Dog and Cheetah project.
(Source: British Ecological Society press release, 20.07.2017)