Asiatic wild dogs may soon vanish from their forest homes
It may not be as charismatic as the tiger, but the Asiatic wild dog or the dhole is an equally adept hunter that is on brink of disappearance from India’s forests.
A key predator, the declining number of dholes is worrisome because they balance prey populations and are an indicator of a healthy forest ecosystem. A recent study by the Bangalore based Centre for Wildlife Studies (CWS) found that the dhole is prone to local extinctions in
37,000 sq km surveyed across Western Ghats.
The study found that dhole occupancy or dhole signs which were detected in 35% of the sites surveyed in 2007 had reduced to only 30% of the sites by 2015. The study published in Nature journal’s Scientific Reports in February identified 49 sites most sensitive to local extinction which could significantly decrease the overall dhole occupancy.
This 5 per cent reduction in sites with dhole signs is significant because globally only 1,000 to 2,215 mature individuals globally as per estimates by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which lists dholes in the “endangered category” of the IUCN Red List and the largest remaining population is limited to the Western Ghats in India. “Dhole is a wild canid apex carnivore that primarily inhabits forested areas in South and Southeast Asia. Globally, dholes have disappeared from 82% of their former range…we found that the Western Ghats landscape, in spite of its relatively high-quality reserve network, does not seem adequate for conserving what may be the largest dhole meta-population in the world,” a statement by CWS on the study said.
The scientists found that forest habitat loss was the main driver of local extinctions of dholes, they also found that the presence of livestock was of great danger to dhole populations because livestock competes with wild prey dholes depend on. Wildlife biologists K Ullas Karanth and others recommended sustained protection measures in Kali, Kudremukh and Cauvery-MM Hills’ and expansion of forest cover in these areas.