Cape Town - As if their fight for survival isn't dire enough, a pack of endangered wild dogs in the Kruger National Park (KNP) has died due to natural causes. 

The KNP made an announcement saying they had lost their Lower Sabie pack of African Wild Dogs from a disease called Canine Distemper. The wild dogs died around the weekend of 21 - 22 May this year, KNP says. 

Canine distemper is a contagious and serious viral illness with no known cure. The disease commonly affects domestic dogs and can also spill over to the wildlife such as the African wild dogs, hyenas, lions and jackals.

The virus often circulates in wildlife without clinical signs or mortalities, as has been the case in KNP for many years.  

The exact source of the particularvirus which affected this pack of wild dogs is not certain, but could have been due to contact with a feral dog or one of the other wildlife species infected by the disease.

“The strain of the disease varies and this strain which cost our Wild Dogs’ lives appears to be particularly extreme, Dr Markus Hofmeyr for the park's Veterinary Wildlife Services says. 

"African Wild Dog packs do not often make contact with each other, therefore chances of other packs of dogs in the southern KNP becoming infected by this pack are very small. We remain alert, however."  

Hofmeyr says extreme cases like this claim a 100% mortality rate if it infects a particular pack of wild dogs. "Tswalu Desert Reserve also recently lost an entire pack to Distemper disease," he says.

A joint investigation by both SANParks and State Veterinarians on various options of managing the situation is underway. This includes increased monitoring of all other packs in the area and the possibility of targeted vaccination of adult wild dogs. The disease has to date only affected one pack in the park.

“The long-term solution to the problem is frequent vaccination of domestic dogs around conservation areas and we advise the public - especially those in local communities bordering the Park - to stick to routine vaccination of their domestic dogs as this assists us as well”, advised Hofmeyr.

Posters will be placed at strategic places inside the Park, with contact details to report any African Wild Dog sightings, so that guests can also assist management with the monitoring of the health status of wild dogs in the KNP. 

Less than 450 African Wild Dogs in SA

The loss of the pack of wild dogs is a serious knock to an already endangered species. In South Africa, there are less than 450 wild dogs left, including the dogs in the Kruger National Park, Wild Dogs in fenced reserves and some dogs outside protected areas. 

Human encroachment is the main parasite killing off these animals, reducing their range and their numbers. Because of land clearance, urbanization and the shrinkage of herds of prey, Africa's unique Wild Dogs are now restricted to scattered populations in parks and reserves. 

Most shockingly, however, is that the endangered dogs are being killed purposefully too, by people who want to prevent the Wild Dogs from preying on livestock or game that have an economic value to landowners. 


READ MORE HERE: #ShockWildlifeTruths: Less than 450 African Wild Dogs left in SA


These are the ways you can help save the African Wild Dog:

If you see, or think you’re seeing a Wild Dog, try get a photo and report the sighting with date and location via email to Endangered Wildlife Trust (census@ewt.org.za). 

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you can take part in a ride, run or swim in support of African Wild Dogs. SEE MORE HERE

As a wearable token of your support for the African Wild Dog, you can buy a Wild Dog Relate bracelet.

You can also support the Wild Dog conservation work of the Endangered Wildlife Trust by making a much-needed DONATION.
 
This article was first Published by Traveller24 on 27 May 2016.