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Keywords:

  • wild dog;
  • Lycaon pictus;
  • diet choice;
  • profitability;
  • capture success

Abstract

The small population of wild dog Lycaon pictus (n= 3 to 30) in Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park (HUP) has declined since 1992. The survival of dogs in HUP is dependent on the reintroduction of more dogs; however, wild dog reintroduction programmes are fraught with problems and many have failed. In this paper the diet and capture success of the wild dog pack in the Hluhluwe Section, and the influence of dietary considerations on the success of the future reintroduction of wild dogs in this reserve, are investigated. Diet choice was determined from scat analysis, personal observation and field staff records. Eight ungulate prey species were identified from scat analysis: nyala Tragelaphus angasi and impala Aepyceros melampus were the most abundant ungulate species in HUP and accounted for 77% of the diet. On the whole, wild dogs included prey types in the diet consistent with a rate-maximizing foraging approach, although some prey were clearly taken opportunistically. The dogs preyed mostly on small- (> 25 kg) to medium-sized (40–90 kg) prey, while the young of large (< 90 kg) prey species or scavenged carcasses supplemented the diet during the dry season. Adult nyala were taken more frequently than other age classes, but wild dog preyed on juvenile impala more than expected. Female prey were taken more frequently than males but selection did not differ from prey population sex ratios. Prey capture success was similar to that of previous studies from both open and densely wooded habitats and the wild dogs successfully caught 48% of all prey species pursued. Results suggest that wild dogs are quite capable of adapting both their diet choice and foraging technique to the dense vegetation in HUP. We conclude that prey type, prey availability and habitat constraints on prey capture success, will not affect the reintroduction of more wild dogs into HUP.