Alappuzha: A recent study by a team of leading international researchers, including Dr Abi Vanak and Chan-drima Home of Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Bengaluru, has revealed that dogs contribute to 11 vertebrate extinctions.
The research titled ‘the global impacts of domestic dogs on threatened vertebrates’ has also found domestic dogs are a potential threat to at least 188 species worldwide, including 96 mammals, 78 birds, 22 reptiles and three amphibians. It includes 30 critically endangered species, two of them classified as “possibly extinct”. Terming dogs as the world’s third most damaging invasive mammalian predators, behind rodents and cats, it says interaction of domestic dogs with wildlife can leave severe adverse impacts on biodiversity. The study is carried out by using the IUCN Red List data to quantify the number of threatened species negatively affected by dogs. It helped the study to assess the prevalence of different types of dog impact, and identify regional hotspots containing high numbers of affected species.
The researchers found dogs can endanger the wildlife with frequent disturbance, disease transmission, competition, and hybridisation.
South-east Asia is one of the worst hit areas by domestic dog predations.
“Domestic dogs kill more livestock numbers than snow leopards and wolves combined. This is also one of the main reasons why locals no longer maintain herds of sheep and goats," says Chandrima Home.
“With the decline in smaller bodied livestock, dogs have now started targeting the calves of yaks. For last five years, there has been a major decrease in the population of small-bodied livestock (sheep and goat) within the landscape. Many villages have stopped keeping them due to increased frequency of depredation by dogs.”
The study also suggests that effective strategic engagement with animal welfare and human health campaigns can help better manage dogs. It can not only save several species threatened by dogs but also prevent the risk of rabies. “Responsible dog ownership should entail that these animals don’t disturb the populations of other species. Public garbage dumping is one of the main reasons in multiplying stray dog population,” it says.
“Better treatment of dogs is essential for the persistence of threatened species, especially at a time when human and dog populations are expected to increase both numerically and geographically in the coming decades."
The only method prescribed for regulating dog population in India now is through sterilisation. However, the study says, sterilisation is unlikely to solve the problem since a small proportion is becoming feral. It is, therefore, necessary to tackle this issue by removing such problem-causing animals.
“Proper waste disposal strategies and encouraging responsible dog ownership will help reduce the dog population over time and alleviate the incidences of livestock depredation,” it says.