Solving the mystery of Serengeti’s vanishing wild dogs

Photo: Per Harald Olsen/AfricanBioServices

Twenty-five years ago, African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) disappeared from Serengeti National Park. A firestorm of debate followed when researcher Roger Burrows claimed that handling by scientists was the cause. New research refutes that claim and offers another explanation.

Craig Jackson, a researcher at the Norwegian Institute of Nature Research (NINA), and part of the AfricanBioservices-project, is first author of a new paper debunking the hypothesis.

Jackson studied wild dogs in the greater Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem for his PhD at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).
He worked with his colleagues at NINA, NTNU and the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) to go through all of Burrows’ arguments and re-evaluate them using an alternative approach.

Their paper, published in the scientific journal Ecology and Evolution, shows that Serengeti wild dogs weren’t the victims of well-meaning researchers but likely left the park for another reason entirely — lions.

Scientific article (Wiley Online Library)

The story in NTNU’s research magazine Gemini