Wild Dogs Are Crossing Borders using Zambia’s Protected Wildlife Corridors

In 2022 The Zambian Carnivore Programme documented the first recorded dispersal of wild dogs from the Luangwa Valley into Mozambique and back into Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park, demonstrating the critical need to safeguard the wild dogs’ habitat in the Luangwa to Lower Zambezi valleys.

Wild dogs photographed on the Munyamadzi airstrip (photo courtesy of Munyamadzi Game Reserve).

The African wild dog is Southern Africa’s most endangered carnivore and Africa’s second most endangered carnivore behind the Ethiopian wolf. Wild dog numbers have dwindled so much that they are only found in 14 out of the 39 countries that they once roamed across, with only an estimated 6,600 left on the entire continent. This social and inquisitive mammal, known for traveling in large packs, once roamed the continent. However, due to a combination of habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict (with wild dogs seen as a threat to livestock by farmers), accidental killing, and infectious disease it is now classified as an endangered species globally and found only in sub-Saharan Africa. Wild dogs need well-managed wildlife corridors to survive as it helps connect their increasingly fragmented habitat.

Under constant anthropogenic threats, wild dogs also rely on a healthy prey base, and a healthy prey base needs a protected and healthy ecosystem to support it. Together with Zambian Government, the 12 Chiefdoms that we partner with under the Luangwa Community Forests Project (LCFP), and the numerous private game reserves’ conservation efforts, we are working to conserve wild dog habitat in the Luangwa Valley. While wild dogs are not uncommon in Munyamadzi, 2019 marked the first sighting of collared wild dogs that were making their way all the way down from Nsefu, South Luangwa National Park, towards Lower Zambezi National Park. That’s a one-way journey of close to 300kms! The majority of which is outside national parks and through a large portion of the LCFP in Game Management Areas and private ranches. Since then, through Reserve management camera traps, camera trap surveys, and live sightings, our partners at Munyamadzi and Lion Landscapes have recorded numerous sightings.

In March 2022 The Zambian Carnivore Programme released the following exciting announcement, which only reaffirms and goes above and beyond everything we have been seeing in the area to support what the amazing natural resources management stakeholders in Zambia are doing with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) to protect Zambia’s wildlife legacy landscapes:

“In April we documented the first recorded dispersal of wild dogs from the Luangwa Valley into Mozambique! Most dogs leave their natal pack between 1 and 3 years of age, usually striking out in same-sex groups in search of forming new — taking over existing — packs. Several females from the Luangwa’s Luamfwa pack dispersed early in the rains and after several months in southern Luangwa Valley, within 42 km of Lower Zambezi National Park, took an abrupt trip south into Mozambique. The dispersing group then returned and is now in… Lower Zambezi! This is the first documentation of dispersal between the Luangwa and mid-Zambezi Valleys and the parks to our knowledge, though it has long been suspected. While the Luangwa Valley still retains connectivity throughout, there were numerous human-impacted landscapes to cover on their transboundary journey”.

“The longest recorded wild dog dispersal we’re aware of is 600 km, and this group is at 1610 km and counting!”

Dr. Matt Becker, ZCP CEO.

Map tracking the dispersal into Mozambique (map courtesy of Zambian Carnivore Programme).

The documentation of this dispersal is exciting for a number of reasons! Wild dogs need large unfenced and protected tracts of habitat to survive, as well as a healthy prey base, and a healthy prey base needs a protected and healthy ecosystem to support it. This journey, largely through community forests is key to proving how REDD+, together with organizations such as the Zambian Carnivore Programme, private game reserves, and operators like Munyamadzi, and DNPW are all collaborating to create a safe and well-managed wildlife corridor so that the wild dog’s habitat is being protected. It is also bringing hope for the future of this emblematic species, as it demonstrates the enormous potential of site (re-)colonization through long-distance dispersal. Restoring safe corridors within the historical range of wild dogs represents an effective conservation strategy for the long-term survival of the species, and the REDD+ program is a sustainable way to achieve this.

“At BCP, we understand that in order to address the issues of habitat destruction and degradation we have to ensure the communities sharing this space are being supported through sustainable projects. The LCFP is a partnership between Government, BCP, and 12 Chiefdoms in the Luangwa, Luano, and Lower Zambezi valleys, across over 1 million hectares of Zambia’s rich biodiversity landscapes, that works to address key drivers of deforestation while benefitting local communities and supporting forest and wildlife restoration through funds generated from the sale of verified carbon offsets. As a result, LCFP is enhancing the quality of life for 217,000 people in 36,000 households in one of Zambia’s most impoverished regions through a partnership-based approach, while ensuring the ecological function maintenance of this protected area network through improved management”.

Nic Mudaly, BCP CEO.

A special mention must go out to our #partnersinconservation for this post – Zambian Carnivore Programme, Munyamadzi Game Reserve, Kazumba Game Reserve, Lion Landscapes, Conservation Lower Zambezi, Lion Recovery Fund, University of Oxford, Darwin Initiative, National Geographic, Forestry Department, and Department of National Parks and Wildlife

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *