Recently, I visited five different sanctuaries of Rajasthan. Without my special efforts to see them, I did see an active predator in most of these areas, but they were not natural, these were feral dogs.
Some were chasing chinkara’s while others were chasing neelgai. I met local people and they said that every alternative day these dogswould injure or kill some wild animal in their area. Sometimes they did rescue the wild animal or chased out the dogs, but feral dogs is a growing menace in many wildlife areas in today’s times.
More concerning is the condition of the smaller wildlife areas which are most affected as no big cats such as leopards or tigers who are the predators of the dogs exist; the dogs can be seen chasing the wildlife even in densely forested areas. A small area of desert which is protected by the local community has 500 chinkaras and regularly some animal injured by the dogs. I saw carcass of domestic animals and also butcher waste around the area, which is one cause attracting the dogs in the area. I suggested to the community head that they should not throw the carcass in forest areas but they said waste dumping is not in their hands as people silently throw the garbage and carcass even at night to avoid been seen. Today the big sanctuaries are still comparatively safe as wild animals can escape inside the forest also the predators of the outer periphery such as the leopards restrict intrusion of these canids.
However, is there any solution to this problem? Animal lovers say this is not a problem and dogs are also part of ecosystem and these neo predators are now balancing the ecology of our jungles too. They are arguing that “Dogs have a right to live too”. On the other hand, figures are shocking, globally 500 million stray dogs surviving and in India 20 to 30 thousand people die every year because of rabies. Recently a news came in to light that canine distemper virus can cause trouble to tigers too. National Tiger Conservation Authority issued an alert letter to all the reserve directors and suggested vaccination of stay dogs around the tiger reserves. Rabies and CDV can be controlled through vaccinations but what happens to the dogs who are killing wild animals directly?
Animal lovers have an opinion that nobody can kill the dogs and keep any area totally dog free, as new dogs from the adjoining area will come to the empty territories and take over. Possibly, we can control their population through sterilisation but it has to be ethically and legally correct. Other people say if we want to save our remaining wild areas we have to continuously kill or remove thedogs. They say that even after sterilisation the dogs will kill wild animals. They also argue that there is no fund and trained manpower available to sterilize this unbounded number of straydogs.
Dog numbers are increasing with the human population one key reason is bad garbage management. This is also an indicator of the fragmenting web of our ecosystem, we do need to get some important wild areas dog-free, but it is important to be scientifically and ethically correct.