Past Projects

Genetics of the South African Wild Dog

© Colchester ZooMission: To generate a national wild dog metapopulation genetic database to better understand the effects of recent management activities, as well as to guide future conservation management of this endangered species.

Species: African wild dog

Location: South Africa

Support: 2006-2007

Amount donated: £5,000 this project is of particular relevance to Action for the Wild with the creation of the UmPhafa Private Nature Reserve in South Africa. Action for the Wild plans to release species onto this reserve that naturally occurred there in the past, one such species being the hunting dog. Thus Action for the Wild is eager to support this genetic research into existing South African dog populations.

Background: African Wild Dogs were once distributed through much of sub-Saharan Africa. Now, however, they have been wiped out from most of their range, are classified as endangered and are South Africa's most threatened large carnivore. The main reasons for the demise of the wild dog are widespread destruction of habitat and direct persecution, through hunting, snaring and poisoning.

Following a Population and Habitat Viability Assessment (PHVA) in 1997, scientists began exploring the potential for the large areas in South Africa, which are being developed as game ranches, for wild dog reintroduction.

This approach involves managing at least nine separate wild dog subpopulations on several small geographically isolated reserves as a single large population or 'metapopulation'. This requires intensive management in the form of fencing, disease control and periodic movement of animals between reserves to mimic natural dispersal and maintain gene flow. Due to the rapid expansion of the metapopulation it has become increasingly difficult to maintain accurate genetic records, leading to a greater risk of inbreeding within and between subpopulations.

Action for the Wild is Colchester Zoo’s charitable arm

Action for the Wild became a charity in 2004

Action for the Wild has donated over £2 million to animal conservation to date