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"Control of Domestic Dog Diseases in Protected Area Management and the Conservation of Endangered Carnivores"

Karen Laurenson, Titus Mlengeya, Fekadu Shiferaw, Sarah Cleaveland

Disease is an increasing threat to many of the world’s endangered carnivores, from those in North America to those in Africa. To date, rabies and canine distemper have given the greatest concern, causing severe declines in and local extirpations of a range of species, including the black-footed ferret, Channel Island foxes, Ethiopian wolves, African wild dogs and lions. In many of these examples, particularly in Africa, outbreaks in wildlife have occurred when pathogens have spilled over from a surrounding reservoir of domestic dogs. With dog populations and thus this risk of spillovers constantly increasing, many protected area managers are taking measures to reduce this disease risk to endangered carnivores. The range of approaches available includes reducing disease in target species, reducing disease incidence in the reservoir dog population and preventing contact between the target and reservoir species. Reducing disease risk in endangered carnivores can be effected by directly vaccinating or treating endangered individuals. This approach has been tried for black-footed ferrets, African wild dogs and Channel Island foxes, but has been limited by logistical and technical constraints such as the availability of safe and efficacious vaccines. Reducing disease incidence in reservoir dogs has been tried by directly vaccinating or treating or indirectly through reducing the size of the dog population by culling or limiting reproduction. Dog vaccination has been carried out around several protected areas in Tanzania such as the Serengeti NP, Ruaha NP and Udzungwa NP and in Ethiopia, particularly the Bale Mountains National Park, to protect the Ethiopian wolf. If done with sufficient scale and commitment, this approach has been effective. Culling and limiting dog population size face considerable cultural challenges. Education campaigns to encourage responsible dog ownership have been conducted in Ethiopia, although with limited effect. Future work to reduce the need for dogs in Ethiopia is planned. Reducing contact could be achieved through fencing or other physical barriers, restraining dogs or through reducing human and thus dog movements in wildlife habitat. Fences are a common feature of protected areas in South Africa, but have not always prevented rabies outbreaks, particularly when small carnivores may be a vector from reservoir dogs or a component of the reservoir themselves. Encouraging owners to tie dogs has had limited success in Ethiopia. Overall, wildlife managers are ill-equipped to reduce disease threats to endangered carnivores and, to conduct successful campaigns, currently available approaches must be tailored to the specifics of the situation.


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Biography for
Karen Laurenson

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