Attitudes of ranchers towards African wild dogs Lycaon pictus: conservation implications on private land

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Biological Conservation



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In South Africa, wild dogs are limited to a single viable population in Kruger National Park. Current conservation efforts aim to develop a meta-population through the reintroduction of wild dogs into fenced reserves. However, significant potential also exists for conserving naturally occurring wild dogs in situ on ranchland. This study represents an assessment of the attitudes of southern African landowners towards wild dogs to determine the scope for conserving them on private land, and to identify the conditions under which conservation efforts might succeed. Over half of ranchers interviewed indicated that they would like to have wild dogs on their property. Younger ranchers were more positive than older ranchers, suggesting that traditional prejudices against wild dogs are fading. Attitudes were generally negative where ranches are game-fenced, and where cattle or consumptive wildlife utilisation dominate land use. Negative attitudes were typically related to economic costs associated with wild dogs, and conservation initiatives aimed at reducing costs or creating benefits from the species represent the most direct way to improve attitudes. Many ranchers recognised the potential ecotourism value of wild dogs, and attitudes were most positive where ranches belong to conservancies, and where ecotourism-based land uses predominate. Similar relationships were found between ranch/rancher characteristics and attitudes towards most large carnivores. Thus, our findings have general relevance for large carnivore conservation on private land in southern Africa. Encouraging the formation of conservancies should be a priority for carnivore conservation efforts on ranchland, to reduce conflict and promote coexistence between people and predators.