African Wild Dogs (Lycaon pictus) are known for their bushy whitetails and large ears. Commonly known as Painted Dogs or Painted Wolves, they hold the hearts of many across the world. As a top-order predator, they require vast expanses of land to roam and hunt. Unfortunately, South Africa is running out of safe space.
Wild Dogs are listed as globally Endangered Species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with only an estimated 4000-6000 remaining in the world. They used to range throughout sub-Saharan Africa, however habitat destruction and fragmentation have caused them to become absent from most of their historical range. Persecution and widespread disease have further caused their populations to decline. Now, most Wild Dog populations in southern Africa occur in formally protected areas.
In South Africa, there are less than 450 known dogs, making them South Africa’s rarest carnivore and mammal. Wild Dogs are a protected species in terms of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (Act 10 of 2004) and the Threatened or Protected Species Regulations of 2007 (ToPS). Most Wild Dog populations in South Africa occur in protected areas such as the Kruger National Park or are heavily managed in Kwazulu-Natal, as a part of the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Wild Dog Metapopulation Project. Free-roaming dogs outside of these formally protected areas are few and far between. The Waterberg Biosphere in the Limpopo Province holds most of these rare, free-roaming Wild Dogs.
The Waterberg Biosphere is a UNESCO World Heritage Site made up of a patchwork of cattle farms, game farms, agricultural lands, private and public nature reserves. The Wild Dogs range into these unprotected lands and face many threats to their well-being. The Waterberg Wild Dog Initiative is a community-based initiative dedicated to protecting and conserving the free-roaming Wild Dog population in the Waterberg by working with local landowners, stakeholders, and other community and governmental organizations.
The WWDI aims to spread awareness, gain accurate information, educate, and work with community members and landowners to protect and conserve the dogs in the Waterberg Biosphere. It is an organization working for the community and run by the community, unlike anything that has been attempted with the Waterberg Wild Dogs yet. It addresses concerns surrounding the Wild Dogs and works to support local landowners who ultimately host these Dogs by taking steps to mitigate any human-wildlife conflict. The WWDI seeks to ensure that the Waterberg Biosphere will always be home to free-roaming African Wild Dogs.