Reported livestock guarding dog-wildlife interactions: Implications for conservation and animal welfare

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
K Whitehouse-Tedd, R Wilkes, C Stannard, D Wettlaufer, D Cilliers
Biological Conservation
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Livestock depredation by carnivores is a key cause of detrimental human-wildlife interactions around the world. Recently, the use of livestock-guarding dogs (LGDs) to reduce livestock depredation has been challenged in terms of their impact on wild animal welfare and survival, but the prevalence of LGD-wildlife interactions is poorly understood. Using data for 225 LGDs on South African farms, we determined the prevalence of farmer-reported LGD-wildlife interactions to contextualise the potential concerns. Wildlife interactions were reported for a total of 71 dogs (32%); McNemar’s tests revealed non-lethal herbivore interactions (8%) were significantly lower than non-lethal predator interactions (17%; p < 0.01), but no significant difference was detectable in the proportion of lethal interactions according to type of wildlife (9% for herbivores and 10% for predators). All reported predator interactions were defensive, compared to only 25% of reported herbivore interactions (p = 0.016). Of the dogs for which data on corrective measures were available, 44% were successfully corrected following intervention. Of those deemed uncorrected, 42% had ceased exhibiting this behaviour independently or were acting defensively, 21% were removed from the programme, 26% had unclear intervention outcomes and 11% had died. Reported interactions with predators were rare, entirely defensive, and predominantly non-lethal. However, interactions with non-target species (herbivores) were more prevalent, necessitating remedial interventions. Overall, the conservation benefit of LGDs does not appear to be outweighed by ethical implications of their use; LGDs were shown to be highly targeted and discriminatory towards predators attempting to predate on livestock.


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