Dispersal of individuals is a fundamental process governing the dynamics of socially and spatially structured populations. There is, however, a mismatch between our understanding of the complexity of dispersal and our representation of dispersal in population dynamic models. This is particularly the case for species characterized by long-distance dispersal, such as the African wild dog, as the fate of dispersers is often unknown and consequently neglected.
The Okavango Delta represents one of the strongholds for this endangered carnivore in southern Africa and, through dispersing individuals, the resident population likely acts as a source population for the natural re-colonization of the surrounding regions. Under these circumstances, understanding mechanisms and patterns of wild dog dispersal, and its demographic consequences are fundamental for the management and conservation of the species across the broader landscapes of Southern Africa such as the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA/TFCA).
The aim of this project is to bring together novel information on dispersing individuals and 25 years of individual-based life-history data from resident groups to provide an explicit investigation of dispersal in African wild dogs. We deploy GPS/Satellite radio collars on subadult African wild dogs that disperse from their natal group, to collect information on dispersal patterns, habitat use during dispersal, survival, settlement success in a new territory, and reproductive success of newly formed packs. This information on dispersing individuals will be merged with existing long-term demographic data on resident groups to inform a spatially explicit demographic model at an unprecedented level of detail. By placing dispersal into a wider ecological and demographic context, this project will increase our fundamental biological understanding of dispersal and help improve our ability to predict and manage the responses of endangered carnivores to environmental and anthropogenic perturbations. This project will provide an important scientific insight for evidence-based conservation of the African wild dog, but also for other wide-ranging carnivores such as the cheetah and the lion.
This project is a collaboration between the Population Ecology Research Group at the University of Zurich (Switzerland) and the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust (Botswana).