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How does human behavior affect endangered African painted dog behavior?

Raised of $2,500 Goal
Funded on 1/03/17
Successfully Funded
  • $2,545
  • 101%
  • Funded
    on 1/03/17

About This Project

Highly social with individuals that care for sick, injured, and elderly pack members, African painted dogs are endangered. Populations decreased from half a million individuals to approximately 6000 due to human-related activities such as snares and habitat loss. We aim to understand the scale of a new threat, den disturbance by humans, and evaluate its effects on painted dog behavior and growth rates through zoo collaborations, den camera monitoring, and photograph analysis.

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What is the context of this research?

Multiple factors such as habitat loss, persecution, and other forms of human disturbance played a key role in the population decrease of endangered African painted dogs (Lycaon pictus). Once estimated to total half a million individuals, there are now approximately 6,000. Human disturbance has been shown to affect wildlife by altering foraging behaviors and immune responses, and although observing wildlife can be beneficial for research and education, it may be detrimental if humans are interfering with natural animal behaviors. We are trying to understand both the level at which human presence and/or activity begins to negatively impact the survival of painted dogs, and the extent of the impact.

What is the significance of this project?

Preliminary data indicate the following negative impacts that human presence has on painted dogs: reduced feeding leading to reduced growth rates in pups that compromise survival, more pup-guarders at dens reducing the hunting success of the pack, increased pup mortality by lions and den moves that are precipitated by human presence, and altered behaviors such as hunting at night instead of sleeping.

All of these actions can lead to decreased survival and adversely impact population stability. Results of this study will assist with understanding how human behavior and presence can influence the behavior and survival of painted dogs, and will allow us to improve zoological care and enhance conservation programs.

What are the goals of the project?

This two-phased project will begin immediately and continue through 2017, and possibly 2018, to collect as much data as possible. Phase 1 will capture data on wild painted dog populations through remote download-capable den cameras and photographs. Phase 2 will obtain painted dog feeding and growth rate information from zoological facilities via surveys distributed in collaboration with the African Painted Dog Species Survival Plan. Photographic data will be collected from research teams, painted dog caretakers and visitors at zoological facilities, and public sources (i.e., painted dog groups, travel websites, etc.) and will be stored and analyzed to obtain morphometric scaling (height. length, etc.) for growth rate comparisons between wild and zoological painted dog populations.


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FileMaker Pro: This well supported and flexible program for Macs and PCs will be used to create a database containing information about feeding protocols and growth rates of both wild and zoological painted dogs for comparison purposes, as well as photographs that will be analyzed. The database will be maintained, shared, and expanded as needed.

Game cameras: To lessen researcher presence, remote-download capable cameras will be placed at den sites. Data collected will include litter size, pup activity, pack size, level of human disturbance, predator presence, etc. that can be utilized for both this project and future research.

Housing for game cameras: Hyenas and other species sometimes attempt to remove or damage cameras. This housing will minimize or prevent camera damage.

Endorsed by

I serve as Tammy's dissertation advisor in Antioch University New England's PhD program in Environmental Studies. It is with great pleasure that I endorse Tammy's research into the effects of human behavior on the behavior, growth rates, and survival of painted dogs. Results from this well-designed and much-needed research can be used to help inform management practices and better protect this rare and declining species.
I am delighted to endorse this research project by Tammy Cloutier. It will help answer the question : are African wild dog (painted dog) pups being negatively impacted by tourists visiting dens. A deep interest in the dogs and my association with painted dog conservation organizations, leads me to believe that answering this question is essential to helping painted dogs thrive both in protected reserves and in captivity.

Meet the Team

Tammy Cloutier
Tammy Cloutier

Tammy Cloutier

My passion for wildlife conservation and experience as a veterinary technician fueled my desire to learn more about animal behavior. This led to the completion of my bachelor's degree in Psychobiology at the University of New England and master's in Wildlife Science at Texas A&M University. After presenting my master's research on African painted dog enrichment in US zoos at conferences and in peer-reviewed publications, I find myself still fascinated by this species and wanting to aid in their conservation. I am excited about my current research in human-painted dog interactions as I pursue my PhD through Antioch University New England's Environmental Studies program.

Additional Information

Cover photo by Nigel Nicholls 2015

Project Backers

  • 37Backers
  • 101%Funded
  • $2,545Total Donations
  • $68.78Average Donation
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