From August 2008 to April 2009, the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Carnivore Conservation Group once again teamed up with Land Rover South Africa and South National Parks to conduct a census of Wild Dogs and Cheetahs in the Kruger National Park, the fifth census conducted since 1989.
Wild Dog and Cheetah are the rarest of the park’s large carnivores, and their low densities and wide-ranging behaviour make them particularly difficult to count. Fortunately, researchers are able to recognize individuals of both species from their unique coat patterns, thus enabling an estimation of minimum population size.
Since 1989 surveys have been conducted every five years in 1995, 2000 and 2005. Wild Dog numbers have fluctuated between a peak of 434 (1995) and a low of 120 (2005). A decision was made in 2007 to pull the 2010 census forward by one year, as previous intensive studies of Wild Dogs in southern KNP came to a halt in 2005, and it had been some time since any detailed information was gathered on the population
Although the distribution of Wild Dogs (Lycaon pictus) and Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) have stabilised in South Africa over the past 25 years, these species still occupy only a fraction of their former historical range. Populations of both species can be broadly divided into three status categories: (i) protected populations in Kruger National Park and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park – the two most important conservation areas for these species, (ii) unprotected and largely persecuted populations occurring outside conservation areas on privately-owned ranch land, and (iii) populations that have been reintroduced into several small fenced reserves and parks. The Kruger National Park is home to one of the only viable populations of Wild Dogs and Cheetahs in South Africa, and an understanding of population dynamics in the park is essential for developing national strategies to improve the conservation status of these species.
Land Rover South Africa welcomes the opportunity to help with this important project.
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