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Keywords:

  • conservancy;
  • flight distance;
  • fence;
  • game ranching;
  • hunting;
  • private land

Abstract

The spread of game ranching in southern Africa provides opportunities for the reestablishment of populations of endangered wild dogs extirpated by livestock ranchers. However, this potential has not been realized, partly because of negative rancher perceptions. Some ranchers believe that wild dogs impart costs by killing wildlife that could be utilized consumptively. Others complain that wild dogs make ungulates ‘skittish’ and cause local reductions in prey densities while denning. We compared the skittishness and density of prey species inside and outside the denning home ranges of nine wild dog packs in Zimbabwe. Wild dogs had no impact on prey skittishness, but prey species did occur at lower densities inside denning home ranges. In some scenarios, and particularly on fenced game ranches, wild dogs could cause prey population declines during denning. On small game ranches, the use of fences as a tool by wild dogs during hunting can increase the proportion of large prey species in their diet by up to 11 times, and thus increase the minimum area required to support that diet. In addition, game fencing is typically permeable to wild dogs but not their prey, preventing the recovery of prey populations through the natural influx of prey animals into the denning area following departure of the dogs. Wild dogs could thus impose significant financial costs to game ranchers hosting denning packs. Our findings emphasize the importance of promoting the formation of conservancies, where neighbouring landowners remove boundary fences to create larger contiguous wildlife areas.