WILDLIFE CONSERVATION NEEDS a moon mission.
When President John F. Kennedy declared by the end of the 1960s the United States would put a man on the moon it set forth incredible innovation, unleashed ingenuity, inspired dreaming big and fueled the hard work to make it happen.
Wildlife conservation needs that.
It needs a single project that can shift the tide of decline and turn around a sure extinction in a big way. The wildlife lovers of the world need to see that if it can be done for one species it can happen for many.
But it needs to start with one.
An example would be a sweeping, multi-faceted program to save the African wild dog also known as Cape hunting dog.
With a population that sits at around 5,000 scattered throughout Southern Africa this animal faces poaching, habitat fragmentation, rabies and distemper spread by domestic dogs.
These problems are all ones that Americans and Europeans understand to some level and can even relate to being that virtually everyone has owned a dog or has been around domestic dogs.
Let’s call it “10,000 dogs for Tomorrow”. Hashtag #10kdogs on social media and set a goal for twice the number of African wild dogs in a decade. Instead of the population declining or remaining static shoot for doubling it.
A project like this would include the following.
Vaccination: Rabies and distemper vaccinations have been accomplished in coyotes in America by dropping what are essentially medicated dog biscuits from the air. Since a good many of the hotspots for these animals are known by scientists they could be rather easily targeted and even vaccines put into bait in carcasses left for the animals.
The public understands the need to vaccinate dogs and applying this common practice with a way to save endangered canines could easily gain public interest. People donate millions to spay, neuter and vaccinate dogs in America and Europe. Why not do it with an endangered species?
Poaching: Targeted anti-poaching patrols that specifically seek out areas with high concentrations of these beautiful wild canines. Snares are a big problem as they are caught in them frequently as poachers target other animals.
Simply reducing the number of snares in their range by a great degree would have an extremely positive impact. Hunting-related conservation groups are probably already helping in this effort by default but targeted effort could make a huge difference.
Depredation Subsidies: Ranchers often kill African wild dogs when they prey on goats, sheep or cattle and will kill them if they simply show up near their livestock.
By going into these areas and meeting one on one with ranchers, a system of essentially buying them off to keep the dogs alive could make a big difference. Ranchers could receive an annual or monthly fee to not kill the animals. If it were found out they were killing them, had snares or traps on their property etc. then the subsidy would end. This would have to be done in such a fashion that they actually profit from having the dogs around. Bonuses could be added for allowing researchers to put game cameras on the property to track them and any photos or reports of dogs sent in a timely fashion would also be a way for bonus compensation.
Money makes the world go-around and it can help save this overlooked species.
Captive Breeding/Release: At some point captive release of these animals can equal success in increasing the number of wild animals.
According to the American Association of Zookeepers, early attempts to reintroduce captive-bred animals to the wild were hampered by the dogs’ poor hunting skills and naive attitudes to larger predators.
“However, recent reintroductions have overcome this problem by mixing captive-bred dogs with wild-caught animals and releasing them together. This approach has been very valuable in re-establishing packs in several fenced reserves in South Africa, but is not considered a priority in other parts of Africa at present.”
Engaging the public via social media could be a great rallying point for a program like this. There are few animals cuter than a baby-hunting dog so taking a captive-bred litter and doing a live web cam would be fun and engaging. Millions tuned in for a long period of time awaiting the birth of a giraffe at a New York facility. If this were promoted right it could have the same kind of excitement.
So, why am I writing about this in hunting and fishing publication?
The people best equipped to do something for the African wild dog are hunters. There are thousands of Texas hunters who go to Africa and spend big money there.
African hunters could use a boost of good PR by the way. Like it not, “Cecil the Lion” and several other viral trophy hunting stories from Africa have destroyed what little goodwill was left for Africa hunting.
By picking a nongame species, one that does not directly benefit the hunter, it would show nonhunters (not antis-they’ll never agree with anything hunting) that hunters can and will do great things for conservation and not just for animals they can kill and have mounted.
Hunters do great thing in Africa-whether it’s the Dallas Safari Club, Houston Safari Club or Safari Club International-all have put good money toward helping Africa’s wildlife.
I think a project like this could give hunting a boost in the PR department and most importantly help an incredibly unique and beautiful species.
To move forward with wildlife conservation we need to use 1. Awareness 2. Money 3. Creativity.
If we put those things together many species could move from the brink of extinction into a much more stable standing.
This is just one species. Can you come up with a plan for other endangered animals the hunting (or fishing) community can help?
If so email to us at [email protected] We will publish these ideas in a future issue.
Email Chester Moore at [email protected]