When you think about different kinds of dogs, you might start visualizing German Shepherds, Greyhounds, Labs and other familiar domestic faces, but the dog family is a big one. Some of them need your help. Around the world, canids are going extinct due to pressures on their habit and way of life, while conservation organizations struggle to save them before it’s too late.
Get ready to learn about some fascinating members of Rover’s extended family, and don’t be surprised if one of these dogs just happens to capture your heart.
1. Maned Wolf (above)
Maned Wolves are native to South America, and they’re not well-known, despite the fact that they literally stand head and shoulders above the rest of the pack. They lead solitary lives, though, which makes them particularly vulnerable to pressures like habitat decrease due to agriculture, a common problem across their native territory. Their numbers in the wild are dwindling rapidly and captive breeding programs are attempting to keep their populations solid, but it’s not looking good for Maned Wolves.
Conservation requires a two-pronged approach. More captive breeding is necessary to keep the gene pool diverse and robust, and ensure that the population doesn’t dip below critical numbers. In addition, more active conservation in South America to set aside natural space for Maned Wolves and other animals is important as well, to create an environment where these animals can live safely without human interference. That requires funds for purchasing and protecting land, as well as cooperative programs to work with the people living in and around Maned Wolf territory who want to be able to use the land as well.
2. San Joaquin Kit Fox
As its name implies, this corgi-like critter used to be abundant in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Once Central California began to be developed, these shy creatures started running out of places to live, and their numbers started to dip as early as the 1930s. Today, they lead out their nocturnal lives along the fringes of their former territory, and it’s tough to count them and track their populations because they’re so furtive. Continued population declines are a concern, though, which has led various groups to work on fox conservation measures to protect them.
The most important measures involve protecting grasslands and native territory so the San Joaquin Kit Fox can continue to live in the wild. Surprisingly, one of the foxes’ allies is cattle ranchers! They want open grassland for their cattle, and work with conservation groups to set aside tracts of land that accommodate both grazing and foxes, demonstrating a great model of cooperation between conservation and industry to balance the needs of nature and people.
3. Red Wolf
One of the world’s most endangered canids, the Red Wolf, used to roam across the Eastern United States. Humans, unfortunately, weren’t thrilled about this, and Red Wolves became a target for “predator management” and other programs, which led to large numbers of wolves being killed in the name of protecting people and livestock. At the same time, their habitat rapidly changed as a result of development, leaving them with few places to live safely.
That all changed in 1967 with an endangered species designation, when the United States Fish and Wildlife Service stepped in to start conserving these rare and beautiful animals. Captive conservation programs work to maintain Red Wolf genetics, while approximately 100 roam free in North Carolina. They have a long way to go, but red wolves might just make it.
Otherwise known as Asian Wild Dogs, Dholes are in a critically uncomfortable position. Their numbers declined so rapidly that researchers almost didn’t get a chance to learn about them before they disappeared, and now they’re scrambling to protect the remaining population and give them a fighting chance at survival in a hostile world. Like Red Wolves, Dholes have been targeted as predators, and they’re also facing habitat pressures that create a challenging environment when it comes to finding a safe place to live.
The most important Dhole research is taking place in the wild, where scientists are working to understand more about how these canids live and what can be done to save them. This involves camera trap studies and other observational tools as well as research on Dhole-human interactions. Without this information, it will be hard to develop an effective conservation strategy.
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