- The dhole is a canidnative to Central, South and Southeast Asia.
- Other English names for the species include Asiatic wild dog, Indian wild dog, whistling dog, red dog, and mountain wolf.
- The dhole is a highly social animal, living in large clans without rigid dominance hierarchies and containing multiple breeding females.
- Such clans usually consist of 12 individuals, but groups of over 40 are known.
- It is a diurnal pack hunter which preferentially targets medium and large sized ungulates.
- In tropical forests, the dhole competes with tigersand leopards, targeting somewhat different prey species, but still with substantial dietary overlap.
- It is listed as Endangeredby the IUCN as populations are decreasing and are estimated at fewer than 2,500 adults.
- At present, only 949 to 2,215 mature dholes survive in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
- Native: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand.
- Possibly extinct: Viet Nam
- Regionally extinct: Afghanistan; Kazakhstan; Korea, Republic of; Kyrgyzstan; Mongolia; Russian Federation; Singapore; Tajikistan; Uzbekistan.
Dholes in India:
- Dholes occur in several regions of India, and undoubtedly contains the largest numbers of Dholes.
- Though Dholes have disappeared from 60% of their historic range in India during the past 100 years, relatively high populations of Dholes are still found in the Western Ghats and central Indian forests, due to high prey numbers and extent of protected forests, whereas lower numbers of Dholes are found in the Eastern Ghats.
- Dholes are also found in the northeastern states, although numbers are low and decreasing in this region due to a decreasing prey base and retaliatory killings from livestock predation.
- Dholes are found in some areas of Terai region in northern India, although their exact distribution there is unknown.
- In the Himalayan region, Dholes were recently reported from Sikkim, and in 2008 near TsoKar in Ladakh, thus they may occur in other areas of Ladakh as well.
Importance of Dholes
- Because of the charisma of tigers, this species is completely ignored, even though it has a very important role.
- The species is the key in cleansing weaker genes in nature by predating on them.
- The species helps in reducing the biotic pressure on a patch of forest, as, wherever it goes, certain species of predators flee, giving a breather to many other species of flora and fauna.
- It is included in CITES – Appendix II (2013).
- Dholes are legally protected in the countries where they occur.
- It is listed as Endangeredby the IUCN.
- The dhole is protected under Schedule 2 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
- The creation of reserves under Project Tiger provided some protection for dhole populations sympatric with tigers.
- In 2014, the Indian government sanctioned its first dhole conservation breeding centre at the Indira Gandhi Zoological Park (IGZP) in Visakhapatnam.
- Depletion of prey base: This may be the single greatest factor that contributed to the range collapse of Dholes in the northern half of their former distribution, and might be the primary factor for the continued decline of Dholes in the southern half of their distribution.
- Habitat loss and transformation: Habitat loss and degradation are serious threats to Dholes in southern Asia, particularly because this threat is closely associated with prey depletion and high levels of human disturbance.
- Persecution: Persecution of Dholes stems mainly from retaliatory killings due to livestock predation, and this factor is driving some Dhole populations towards local extinction. Dholes appear to be especially susceptible to poisoning of carcasses using strychnine or other rodenticides, which often are readily available to rural people in southern Asia.
- Disease and pathogens: Dholes are susceptible to rabies, canine distemper, canine parvovirus and sarcoptic mange among others, which are usually contracted from domestic village dogs that act as reservoirs.
- Competition with other species: Aside from humans, the main competitors of Dholes for limited resources are Tigers and Leopards.
- Both Project Tiger and Project Elephant in India have the potential to conserve populations of Dholes and their prey in areas where they coexist with tigers and elephants.
- However, Dholes require up to five times the land area as tigers to maintain viable long-term populations. Thus, relatively large (>750 km2) reserves in India might be the most effective for conserving Dhole populations.
- Currently little is known about the species and ecologists are either dependent on the information based on decades-old research or from conclusions drawn from the African Wild Dogs, which are the closest relatives of the dholes.
- More research is needed on Dholes to better understand their ecology and assist conservation efforts, which includes
- Develop cost-effective surveys to determine the abundance of Dholes, as data on Dhole numbers would allow us to better understand their conservation status.
- Determine the area and prey requirements needed to maintain a viable Dhole population.
- Investigate the effects of disease on Dhole population dynamics.
- Investigate effects of Dholes on ecosystems, specifically their interactions with other large carnivores, and their impacts on prey and smaller carnivores.
Section : Environment & Ecology