Dholes in Danger!


The dhole is classified by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) as 'endangered', meaning that the species faces serious risk of extinction. Two of the major threats to the dhole are habitat destruction (and the associated prey) and human persecution. Furthermore, once dhole populations become fragmented, other factors such as disease and inbreeding may have more permanent effects.

Habitat destruction

The human population explosion has resulted in massive changes to the natural landscape. In India alone, more than 4 million hectares of forest have disappeared in the last 20 years. The main causes were flooding due to dam construction, logging, agricultural expansion, and firewood collection. In many areas habitat deterioration and excessive deer poaching continue to fragment the areas of forest that are suitable for dholes. How these changes will effect the long-term survival of dhole populations is unknown. However, looking at the present predicament of other large carnivores like the tiger, or African hunting dog, there can be little room for complacency.

Human persecution

Through much of its history the dhole has been regarded as vermin and has consequently been trapped, shot and poisoned. One has only to browse through some of the old wildlife journals to discover the depth of this prejudice. It is exemplified by the following quote from the sportsman and 'naturalist' Pythian-Adams (1949):

dhole pic
"Except for his handsome appearance, the wild dog has not a single redeeming feature, and no effort, fair or foul, should be spared to destroy these pests of the jungle"

In India, bounties were paid for carcases right up until 1972 when the dhole was declared a protected species. Even today negative attitudes persist. With suitable areas steadily diminishing and cattle being grazed within the forests, livestock occasionally fall prey to the dhole. If protection is not rigidly enforced, stockmen may retaliate by excavating the den and clubbing the pups to death. Further pressures are applied by villager's who steal the dhole's kills for their own pot. In other regions such as Russia, poisons set out for wolves may be responsible for declines in the local dhole population.