Ecology and Conservation of Dholes in Southeast Asia

The dhole, also called Asiatic wild dog, is a reddish-coloured large canid that historically occurred throughout most of Asia. During the last 50 years, dramatic declines have occurred throughout their distribution, and they are now extirpated in at least 10 central Asian countries. Their last strongholds are small isolated populations in India and Southeast Asia, but numbers are still declining in many of these areas. Because fewer than 2,500 mature individuals are estimated to be left in the wild, and declining population trends are expected to continue, the dhole is classified as Endangered by the I.U.C.N.


During 2009 we investigated the diet and distribution of dholes in Bhutan. Led by Dr Jan Kamler, this research was conducted in collaboration with the Nature Conservation Division, Royal Government of Bhutan. We undertook surveys for dholes in several national parks, and also collected scats for dietary analyses. Overall, we confirmed the presence of dholes in 3 of the 6 protected areas that were surveyed.

We focused particularly on the consumption of cattle vs. wild pigs by dholes. Wild pigs have become a national pest due to their extensive damage to agricultural fields, and we investigated whether dholes could be beneficial to local farmers by preying on wild pigs. Such a benefit had to be weighed against the potential damage dholes caused due to livestock predation. Our results showed that dholes preyed upon twice as many wild pigs as cattle, thus dholes were more beneficial that harmful to farmers. We also found that farmers could reduce predation on livestock by changing their herding practices during certain times of the year.

During the project we trained biologists, park staff, and foresters in field research methods for surveying predators and prey. This research was funded by the Iris Darnton Foundation, U.K., and the Institute for Conservation Research, Zoological Society of San Diego, U.S.A.


Since January 2011, we have been studying the density, diet, and prey selection of dholes in the Nam Et-Phou Louey (NEPL) National Protected Area (5,950 km2) in northern Laos. The NEPL has both a core zone (3,000 km2), where humans and livestock are prohibited, and a buffer zone (2,950 km2) with villages, livestock, and subsistence hunting. The overall goal of NEPL is to function as a model for landscape management and wildlife conservation in Asia. Therefore, we are also investigating whether this park design can adequately conserve dhole populations, and specifically how park zonation affects the ecology of dholes. Biologists and park staff are being trained in the identification of dhole sign, and two Laotian students from the National University are being supervised while completing their theses from this research. The project involves the collaboration of the WCS-Lao PDR program, the National University of Laos, NEPL park management, and local people in and around the NEPL. This research is funded by the Kolmarden Fundraising Foundation, Sweden, and the Rufford Small Grants for Nature Conservation, U.K.


Starting in September 2012, we plan to start a 3-year project researching dhole ecology at several sites in Cambodia. The aim of this project is to determine the effects of reserve size and prey density on the ecology and conservation of dholes in Cambodia. We will determine the home range size, density, diet and prey selection of dholes in three protected areas in Cambodia. The sites differ in area and prey densities, thus we will determine how these important factors affect dhole numbers. This research will involve capturing and placing GPS collars on dhole packs across several sites to determine densities and home ranges. Results of dietary analysis will be compared to prey densities to show which prey species are the most important to dholes. Our results will determine the appropriate reserve size and prey density needed to conserve dhole populations in the region. Overall, this project will include training programmes to help build local capacity, while also assisting long-term conservation efforts for dholes.

We are currently seeking funds to carry out this project, so please contact WildCRU if you are interested in supporting this research.

Project Publications

(copies of papers can be downloaded at:

Choki, T., J. Thsering, T. Norbu, U. Stenkewitz, and J. F. Kamler. 2011. Predation by leopards of black-necked cranes Grus nigricollis in Bhutan. Forktail 27:117-119.

Kamler, J. F., A. Johnson, C. Vongkhamheng, and A. Bousa. 2012. The diet, prey selection, and activity of dholes (Cuon alpinus) in northern Laos. Journal of Mammalogy 93:In press.

Stenkewitz, U., and J. Kamler. 2009. Wildlife signs: Instruction manual. WWF Bhutan Program, Thimphu, Bhutan.
Thinley, P, J. F. Kamler, S. W. Wang, K. Lham, U. Stenkewiz, and D. W. Macdonald. 2011. Seasonal diet of dholes (Cuon alpinus) in northwestern Bhutan. Mammalian Biology 76:518-520.