Past Graduate Student Work
Territoriality and Scent Marking Behavior of African Wild Dogs in Northern Botswana
Megan Parker, PhD, University of Montana, U.S.
Unlike most large carnivores, wild dogs do not vocalize over long distances but rather rely heavily on chemical signals to communicate with their neighbors. A fundamental requirement of these highly social animals is to defend their large territories, even when they are unable to physically patrol their borders. Chemicals from a sample of collected scent marks were analyzed using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (GC/MS) to identify compounds, and then manipulated in the field with a recipient pack to experimentally measure reactions and subsequent movements. Field work and data collection was conducted from 1999 to 2004. This PhD research was the pilot study to the current BioBoundary Project.
Predation Conflict in Rangelands with Free-ranging Livestock in Western Botswana
Matt (Swarner) Muir, PhD, University of California, Davis, U.S.
Matt started with BPCT as a volunteer research assistant in 2001. He continued with a PhD project in 2004 focusing on quantifying the cost to local farmers of conflict with carnivores in Western Botswana. This was part of BPCT's broader effort to understand and manage healthy predator populations within the context of an expanding human population. If attacks by wild dogs on livestock occur patchily and in certain situations (e.g. where wild prey is depleted), stakeholders may be able to mitigate loss by addressing the particular conditions where conflict is high. Reducing conflict is a critical step in minimizing lethal control of wild dogs and other predators and establishing rangelands as viable landscapes for their conservation. Efforts by BPCT to meet farmers, understand conflict, educate stakeholders and suggest solutions to human wildlife conflict are ongoing (see our Insurance Compensation Pilot Study).
Vocal Communication and Cognitive Abilities in a Fugitive Species: the African Wild Dog
Hugh Webster, PhD, Sussex University, UK
Hugh worked on the vocal repertoire of African wild dogs, with a particular focus on the production of very high frequency calls. The hypothesis that ultra sonic calls might provide "eavesdropper-free" communication was a focal point of this research. Following on field work first initiated in 2005, playback experiments between lions (Panthera leo), spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) and African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) were carried out through 2007. These experiments were designed to investigate in greater depth the relationship between these sympatric large carnivores by measuring behavioural responses to interspecific vocalizations. Dr Webster was awarded his PhD in January 2009.