DHOLES : 'THE WHISTLER TO THE WOODS' IS NOW ON THE VERGE OF EXTERMINATION

By Priyanka Sarkar


For more than a decade, wildlife conservationists and admirers have been battling against surge to extermination of some endangered and threatened species.


The high international value and distinctive features or human persecution and ecological sustainability have jeopardized most of these kinds.


Regarded as ‘Whistler to the woods’, Dholes or Asiatic Wild Dogs, (scientifically termed - Cuon alpinus) is Asia’s most daring and intrepid temperamental predator. Belonging to the Canidae family, the dauntless bravery is what suits the personality of this wild carnivorous animal. Strategy, teamwork, speed, audacity and courage make these dogs an efficient predator in the forest ecosystem.



Pic Courtesy : Davidvraju


Found in Central, South, East and Southeast Asia, broad teeth and exceptional sharp jaws offer them an ideal facial feature, making their body look more aligned. Weighing to an average of 40 pounds, dholes consist of 42 teeth - unlike other domestic dogs. Brown in colour, dholes generally reside in group with 2- 25 mates.


The high pitched screams, an unique eerie whistling sound to communicate with other individuals, mark their difference with the other family of Canids. With compex body language and distant vocal calls, dholes can communicate through signs that include greetings or aggression to coordinate with the pack.

“Dholes are the least studied large carnivores in the world. Unlike many other social carnivores, dholes occur at low densities in dense tropical forests. They are wary, difficult to capture, and radio collar, and thereby pose several logistical challenges in the field for tracking their movements or studying their behavior” - stated by Arjun Srivathsa, the leading author of a new study published in the International Journal of Biodiversity Conservation & a doctoral student at the University of Florida, in an interview with Mongabay.


SIGNIFICANCE IN THE FOREST ECOSYSTEM


Listed under IUCN’s endangered category, Dholes are the only large carnivorous animal from India, after tiger. As an apex predator, Dholes play an important role in balancing the forest ecosystem. Extremely forest dependent and habitat sensitive, Dholes contribute to the flow of energy, ensuring sustainability habitat to its prevalence. Through hunting, dholes offer the herbivorous animals to prevail at a healthy level, moreover promoting ecosystem of the woodlands.


INDIAN STATES PROSPERED TO ITS CONSERVATION


Recent study conducted by scientists from the University of Florida, Wildlife Conservation Society-India, The Wildlife Conservation Trust, and The National Centre for Biological

Sciences mark- Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra, the three Indian states to rank high concerning the conservation of endangered dholes. These states focused on forest habitats, thereby recovering dhole populations through escalated prey densities and reducing the continually increasing scale of deforestation.


INDIAN STATES STILL STRIVING


According to the study- Arunachal Pradesh, Orissa, and Telangana need to increase financial investments in these sectors, furthermore reducing the number of forest clearances granted dealing with infrastructure projects.


HUNTING BEHAVIOUR


With a bite force quotient of 132 BFQ, Dholes are intelligent hunters that tire the prey by chasing and then attack. Once the animal is caught, other mates grab its nose while the remaining Dholes pulls it down by flanks, thereby killing preys upto 10 times its size.



Pic Courtesy : Fabrice Stoger


CONSERVATION STATUS


Among enormous carnivorous animals, dholes are the least studied predators listed in the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species, with a remaining of less than 2500 mature individuals. Protected under Schedule 2 of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 and Appendix 2 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the highest population of Dholes are found in India, with The Western Ghats, Central India, and Northeast India as its hub. Also the country’s first conservation breeding centre for Asiatic Wild Dogs set-up in Indira Gandhi Zoological Park, Visakhapatnam in 2014, witnessed a massive increase in its population.


THREATS


With massive infrastructural initiatives in the forest regions, proliferated interferences and intrusions from human persecution and habitat, land-use pattern, loss of forest cover and fragmentation, led dholes extirpate from 60 per cent to their former range during the past years. Besides, depletion of prey bases has also been a threat to these Asiatic Wild Dogs. To be precise, population of ungulates, the main prey of Dholes is rapidly decreasing with excessive poaching and habitat loss. Constant persecution due to livestock predation and disease transfer transmitted from domestic and feral dogs also stood to be an ongoing threat to its continual habitat loss. Besides, a strategic road map & rigorous assessment is required to attain a clear idea on the Cuon alpinus, thereby exploring the restoration and preservation of these endangered predators.