Spatial utilisation, habitat selection and population status of the wild dog (Lycaon pictus) population in Hluhluwe Umfolozi Park.
The African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) was reintroduced into Hluhluwe Umfolozi Park (HUP) in 1980/81 after an absence of over 50 years. A 'hands off' management approach was applied. Although the reintroduction is regarded as successful, the population has not increased significantly and still only consists of a single pack. Various aspects which may affect this population were investigated to compile an active management strategy. Home range analyses identified extensive use of a home range which covered only 22.7 % of HUP and was situated entirely in Hluhluwe Game Reserve. The extensive movements of the dogs within their home range were primarily dictated by the movements and distribution of their prey species, especially nyala (Tragelaphus angasu) and impala (Aepyceros melampus). Forest habitats were preferred, but all available habitat types were utilised extensively by the wild dogs. Space and habitat were both considered to have no limiting effect on this population and HUP has sufficient space and suitable habitat to support a larger population of L. pictus. A number of potentially pathogenic antigens were identified in the population, indicating that it had been exposed to these at some time. Domestic dogs in the areas surrounding HUP were identified as the most likely source of these diseases which pose a threat to the wild dogs. Some genetic considerations are discussed in terms of their effect on the population status and management of the wild dogs. A number of management proposals based on the results of the project were formulated. It is suggested that an active management approach be adopted for the population. This includes managing it as part of a metapopulation which primarily involves the exchange of genetic material among similar wild dog populations on a regular basis. The immediate supplementation of the population with new genetic material is proposed.