African wild dogs are cursorial predators, chasing prey to exhaustion. They can occupy a range of habitats from montane forest to semi-desert and hence were formerly distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa, absent only from the lowland forests of the Congo basin. Wild dogs are intensely social - communicating, hunting, breeding and even dispersing in close cooperation with other pack members. Hence packs, rather than individuals, are arguably the most appropriate measure by which to count wild dog populations.
Wild dogs' decline reflects the expansion of human populations; they have persisted only in areas where human densities are low and have even disappeared from all but the very largest protected areas. Wild dogs' vulnerability to local extinction appears to stem from their unusual ecology: they live at low population densities and the range of each pack varies widely, even where prey is abundant. Low population densities mean that even wild dog populations occupying large areas comprise relatively few individuals, and large home ranges mean that even animals which spend much of their time in large protected areas are often exposed to - and threatened by - human activities on reserve borders. Hence while the ultimate threat to wild dogs is destruction and fragmentation of habitat through human encroachment, this process generates proximate threats including deliberate killing by livestock and game farmers, accidental capture in snares, road accidents, and infectious diseases possibly transmitted from domestic dogs.
The highest priority for wild dog conservation, therefore, is to maintain and promote the contiguity of areas available to wildlife. In areas outside large parks, protecting wild dogs requires that edge effects be mitigated by working with commercial farmers and communal conservancies to limit persecution, providing solutions for mitigating livestock-predator conflict and minimising contact between wild dogs and domestic dogs. Most of these measures will also benefit other wildlife. Only by evaluating the impact of threats is it possible to determine the management strategies most likely to halt or reverse wild dogs decline to extinction in the wild.