Botswana, Africa - You might not call the African Wild Dog the fairest face in the savanna, but this predator is a key player in the wildlife ecosystems of Africa. There used to be tens of thousands in existence. Today that number is down to a fraction and still declining. Killed by local herdsman to protect their cattle, Africa's "wolf" is on a trajectory that may soon make it a memory.
To protect these endangered predators and reduce conflict with cattle, researchers at Wild Entrust International are experimenting with biologically relevant boundaries, or "bio-boundaries," to help contain carnivores in wildlife-protected areas where physical fences have failed. Many animals, including the African Wild Dog, communicate and mark their territories with scents contained in their urine. With funds from the Foundation, researchers at Wild Entrust are trying to identify what compounds in the urine are responsible for signaling territorial boundaries. Once identified, these may be used to create chemical fences that will limit pack ranges and minimize conflicts between wildlife and people.
There are hundreds of chemicals in an average scent mark, making this "deciphering" extremely complicated. But if successful, bio-boundaries may finally forge a sustainable relationship between African livestock farmers and the endangered wildlife with which they co-exist; and the ability to apply the bio-boundary concept to manage and protect other species may follow in short order.