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Darlings in the jungle



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hindustantimes.com, 12.04.2015

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      Wildbuzz: Darlings in the jungle
     Stray/village dogs or free-ranging dogs are killing, traumatising and denying wild species access to water holes as the summer approaches. Some of our wildlife experts, with a partiality for pet dogs, euphemistically describe the hunting styles of such dog packs as recourse to 'tiring down prey'. Urban-based dog advocacy groups shrug off this havoc by blandly declaring such darling dogs as 'part of nature' and their blood lust as just another facet of the jungle's cruel survival.
      Fact is that it is a terrible death, with a prolonged trauma, isolation and death by the proverbial 1,000 vicious bites and blood-curdling snarls. How efficient are these dogs in killing wild species as compared to big cats or wild dogs (dholes)? I asked field researcher, Abi T Vanak (PhD), who has worked extensively on the dog-wildlife conflict in India and Africa.
      "The domestication process has rendered dogs less efficient at hunting and killing as compared to wolves. Changes in skeletal structure (smaller heads, smaller jaws, dentition, etc.) and musculature (weaker leg and jaw muscles) make dogs poorer at bringing down large prey. However, the association of dogs with humans have freed them from the survival costs of failure to kill. Even if they are not successful in hunting, they can still obtain food from human sources. Thus, they can reach high densities, and can just by strength of numbers keep targeting large prey," explained Vanak.
      "From the preys perspective, the pressure from dogs is unrelenting. No sooner has the prey escaped an attack by one pack, another pack comes around. Especially, if the prey is vulnerable (example: isolated fawns), then there is little chance of escape. This does not happen with wild predators that can regulate their densities through both social and spatial means. Since dogs are so poor at actually killing animals once they have cornered them, it is likely to take longer for them to finally bring down large animals like sambar or nilgai. It is likely to result in considerable trauma to the prey before it finally dies from blood loss and shock. On the other hand, wild canids such as wolves or dholes or African wild dogs which have similar hunting tactics (i.e. chasing their prey down) are known to devour their prey quickly, often within minutes of bringing them down. I dont know of any instance with free-ranging dogs where this holds true!'' said Vanak.












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