Wild dogs are causing problems for people in Nepal

The hole looks like a cross between a gray wolf and a red fox. Cuon alpinus, also known as the Indian or Asian wild dog, is a group-living canine animal that can be found in Central and Southeast Asia, and is critically endangered. There are only about 2,500 dogs left in the wild because their prey is disappearing, losing wild space, infesting domestic dog diseases, and killing people.

Despite the species’ conservation status, we don’t know much about dogs’ habitat and ecology in many parts of their range. This hinders any efforts to increase their numbers or stop the decline.

In Nepal, dols are known to live in Chitwan National Park and the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area, but their presence in the rest of the country is unknown, or at least not recorded. But in the 1990s, there were reports that dogs lived in the Durpatan Hunting Sanctuary, a protected area in the western part of Nepal that was designated by the government for hunting. Now a team of researchers has confirmed the presence of dholes in the reserve and found plenty of opportunities for conflict with local residents and other wildlife.

Himalayan blue sheep make up a large part of the megafauna’s diet. reurinkjan/Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY 2.0)

Achyut Aryal of Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand, and colleagues surveyed the hunting reserve in 2012, looking for holes and evidence of animals, such as feces and animals they had killed. They also spoke with 89 local residents, asking about their attitudes toward dogs and any times states killed cattle. Although this region of Nepal is viewed by many people as remote and uninhabited, small villages are located near the reserve, and shepherds transport their livestock within.

The team found a handful of dholes: a pack of three dogs, seven dogs, and one dog alone. Based on sightings and other evidence of dogs, monkeys seem to roam most habitats but avoid arid lands, juniper and spruce forests, places where humans hunt or forests. In February, researchers reported that dolphins’ diets are diverse and include siro (goats and antelopes), musk deer, blue sheep and cattle. Mammalology Journal.

Although the states seem to hunt livestock only opportunistically – rather than deliberately traveling to their shelters to feed on prohibited animals – the locals are not happy with the predators. They reported the loss of dozens of cows and goats annually, and they did not hesitate to use poison to get rid of pesky dogs.

That might eliminate the immediate problem, but the researchers note that such a strategy is likely to cause other problems. Poisoning not only reduces the numbers of endangered dogs, but also indiscriminately kills other species, such as leopards, and allows an increase in wild boars, disturbing the local environment.

The blue sheep is another problem. Blue sheep – which are more gray than blue – are one of the hunting reserve’s biggest attractions. If the hunting quotas do not take into account the fact that blue sheep are killed by the wealthy as well as humans, the administrative authorities can prepare the sheep for rapid decline.

The researchers note that “such conflicts present a major challenge to maintaining poorer populations, and it is important that these issues are resolved because once the populations are locally extinct, it is difficult to re-establish.” They hope that with knowledge from their survey they can help develop a plan of action to conserve dholes and successfully manage their coexistence with the local population.

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