• Habitat loss is one of the greatest threats to biodiversity today. It is estimated that habitat loss and degradation affect between 85 percent and 90 percent of all endangered birds, amphibians, and mammals. Habitat loss can put species in closer contact with human populations, which can cause a variety of problems.

    One victim of habitat loss is the African wild dog (Lycaon pictus), which is one of the most endangered canids in the world. Traditionally, the African wild dog ranged throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Today, its range is drastically reduced and fragmented into smaller areas, mostly in arid zones and the savanna. The fragmented habitat is a particular problem for the African wild dog, which requires a large territory of at least 10,000 square kilometers (3,861 square miles) to support packs of between 10 and 40 dogs. The smaller territories created by habitat loss make it more difficult for the dogs to find adequate prey. As the habitat for other large predators, such as lions, is also reduced, the competition for prey and other resources is heightened.

    Habitat fragmentation has put the African wild dog in close proximity to humans, which also puts a strain on their population. The dogs are considered a threat to livestock and are killed to protect livestock and game. They are also killed on roads that run through their territory and caught in traps intended for game animals. Because African wild dogs are genetically similar to domesticated dogs, they are vulnerable to diseases those dogs carry, such as rabies and distemper. Conservation efforts include educating the public about African wild dogs and creating wildlife corridors between wildlife reserves to extend their range.

    1. The African wild dog is threatened by habitat loss. What are some animal species in your area that are experiencing habitat loss? What factors are contributing to that loss?

      Answers will vary depending on your location. Common factors that contribute to habitat loss are forestry, grazing, and agriculture. Building obstacles in a habitat, such as roads and dams, can lead to habitat fragmentation. Habitat degradation is caused by pollutants that enter the habitat.

    2. What is habitat fragmentation, and why is it a particular threat to the African wild dog?

      Habitat fragmentation is when a habitat is interrupted by roads and other human constructs. Fragmentation is a problem for the African wild dog because they range over such a large territory, and there are few places left with enough land for them that is free of roads, farms, and other human constructs.

    3. What are some ways conservationists are working to protect the African wild dog?

      Conservationists are working to educate the public near the African wild dogs’ territory to reduce accidents and intentional killings. Another important effort is to create wildlife corridors. These are areas free of obstruction that connect wildlife reserves that house African wild dogs. The African Wildlife Foundation works with communities by providing scouts that monitor the African wild dogs and warn ranchers when they are nearby. They also help communities create livestock enclosures to protect livestock from African wild dogs and other predators.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    arid Adjective

    dry.

    Canidae Noun

    family of mammals that includes dogs, wolves, and foxes.

    endangered species Noun

    organism threatened with extinction.

    Encyclopedic Entry: endangered species
    habitat Noun

    environment where an organism lives throughout the year or for shorter periods of time.

    Encyclopedic Entry: habitat
    habitat degradation Noun

    decline in species-specific habitat quality that leads to reduced survival and/or reproductive success in that species.

    habitat fragmentation Noun

    breaking up an environment where an organism lives throughout the year or for shorter periods of time.

    habitat loss Noun

    the reduction or destruction of an ecosystem, making it less able to support its native species.

    rabies Noun

    infectious disease caused by a virus, often associated with wild animals, with symptoms ranging from muscle spasms to death.

    wildlife corridor Noun

    area connecting the habitat of two wildlife populations separated by human activity. Also called a green corridor.

    wildlife reserve Noun

    area set aside and protected by the government or other organization to maintain wildlife habitat. Also called a nature preserve.