The Ecology of Domestic Dog (Canisjamiliaris) and Its Effect on the Survival of the Ethiopian Wolf (Canis simensis) in the Web Valley of the Bale Mountains National Park, Ethiopia.

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Addis Ababa University


The study was carried out in the Web Valley of the Bale Moulltaills National Park, Ethiopia from November 2001 to October 2002. The study focused on the ecology of domestic dog (Canis familiaris) to determine the potelllial effects of the domestic dog on the elldemic and endangered Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis) by exploitative and intelference competitioll, disease transmition and hybridization. An exam illation of the functional significance of the dogs was also cari'ied out. The density of dogs reached 10 dogslkm2 in wet season and decreased to 4 dogslkn? in the {by seasoll. All dogs were oWlled and no feral dog population was assessed. Nocturnal observation of behaviour of dogs and questionnaire sl/lvey revealed that dogs help the local people in defellding their livestock from wild carnivores. Dogs also gave sell'ice by cleaning the area from humallfaeces and carcass. The pastoral people of the study area are in conflict with wild carnivores that depredated on their livestock. Spotted hyaena (Crocuta crocuta) was the most serious predator that did 57% of the 704 livestock depredated by wild carnivores in the last three years. Leopard (Felis pardus), Common jackal (Callis aureus) and Selval cat (Felis serval) cOlltributed 18%, 17% and 9% of the kills, respectively. From a loss of potelltial revenue due to wild camivores' depredatioll on livestock over the past three years, hyella caused 83.5% of the total loss amountillg to US$ 13,102. Comlllon jackal, leopard alld Selval cat cOlllributed, 7.7%, 6.3% and 2.5% of the loss, respectively. In the study of diets of dogs durillg the focal watch, barely husks and humallfaeces cover larger proportion oftheirfood by contributing 45.03% and 20.68% of the total 382 recorded meals respectively. Rock hyrax, rodent and starks hare contributed 4.97%, 4.19% and 0.26% of the meals, respectively. Cheese and milk, KnipilOfia, carcass and potato contributed 8.12%, 6.54%, 5.25% and 3.93%, respectively. From domestic dog faecal analysis, barely husks, human faeces and carcass occurred in 86.83%, 21.42% and 19.42% of the total 1200 faecals. Next to carcass, potato was the most frequently occurred food item, 5.25% of the feacals. Remains of grass, rodent and rock hyrax follow potato by contributing 3.07%, 2.75% and 1.75% of the feacals. Both faecal analyses and focal watch reveal that rodents cOlllribute only a vel)' small proportion of the diet of dogs. As Ethiopian wolves fed almost exclusively on rodent year round, 110 sigllificalll exploitative competition between dogs and wolves were assessed by during this study. From line transect and field obselvatioll, only a small proportion of dogs were found to roam out of settlements and most of them roam 011 mountain tops to hunt on rock hyrax rather than Ethiopian wolf range. Ollly 3% of a total dog population were seen roaming ill the Ethiopiall wolf rallge, which are familiar with wolf; greet and hUllt side by side without showing allY aggressive behaviour. III such a case, there is little intelferellce competition between Ethiopian wolf and domestic dogs. However, such close contact has a risk of hybridization. At present, the more likely threat that dogs pose 011 Ethiopian wolf is disease transmitioll. III the 33 dog-wolf interactions observed amollg nOll "roaming dogs" alld wolves that are not familiar to each other, to dominate the illteractioll depellds upon the Ilumber ofparticipallts. The numbers of seasonal dogs ill creased by 37% at the end of the year and settlements were continuously pushing the Ethiopian wolf rallge. These two factors are likely to cause serious threat to the survival of the Ethiopiall wolves by illtelference competitioll ill the Ilearfuture. Settlement in the 'park' should be minimised.