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          Conserving the Wild Dog and Cheetah One Football Club at a Time

          By Boru Mohammed and Stef Strebel  

          Africa is becoming crowded. Its last wild landscapes are being broken up, and its ecosystems are becoming damaged and Laikipia is no exception to this. Cheetahs and wild dogs need vast areas to survive, but space on this scale is in short supply.  Africa has just 700 packs of wild dogs (that’s about 7,000 animals) remaining and Laikipia is the proud home of about 30 of these packs. The packs reappeared in the 2000s after the wild dogs vanished from Laikipia in the 1980s. The Laikipia population is now the fifth biggest in Africa and in the world too. 

          To ensure that wild dog and cheetah populations in Laikipia continue to thrive, the Zeitz Foundation and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) have teamed up to undertake further evidence based research and raise awareness of the value of cheetah and wild dogs. This project builds upon and furthers the work undertaken by ZSL’s Professor Rosie Woodroffe with wild dogs in Laikipia over the last 14 years and uses this high quality research to raise awareness amongst communities living with these species on their benefits and how to avoid conflict with and conserve them. 

          The partners have developed plays, performed throughout Laikipia by a local theatre group from Segera surrounding communities, and other informational materials that are informed by the research findings of ZSL. These plays convey simple messages about how to manage livestock to minimise conflict with these species and engage communities in enthusiastically monitoring their incidence. For example, did you know that domestic dogs attract wild dogs to your herds? Or that by avoiding thick bush, where wild dogs rest during the day, you can avoid wild dogs and other predators?

          In addition to learning more about these species, the football teams also help the research team gauge the human dimensions of cheetah and wild dog interactions within their communities. They also report wild dog and cheetah sightings through the ZF Laikipia Unity Programme hotline SMS. This will create a better understanding of the distribution of these magnificent species in community lands.

          And why the particular interest from football teams in wild dogs?  The social and hunting behaviour of wild dogs is just like that of a football team. They work out clever ways to work together as a team when hunting, with each dog having a particular role to play in ‘the game’ and collectively working together to make sure they ‘win’. They also look after each other when they are not hunting and work together to ensure their ‘teams’ thrive. Very similar behaviour to the teams playing in the Laikipia Unity Programme - collective, unified and peaceful and demonstrating great skills both on and off the football field. No wonder then that the football teams are keen to ensure the survival of wild dogs!

          If you have information on wild dogs in your area, please send us a message on 0704 180 077! For more information, download our brochure by clicking here.

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