Conservation Genetics

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 785–794 | Cite as

Genetic diversity and spatial genetic structure of African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) in the Greater Limpopo transfrontier conservation area

  • Laura Tensen
  • Rosemary J. Groom
  • Joep van Belkom
  • Harriet T. Davies-Mostert
  • Kelly Marnewick
  • Bettine Jansen van Vuuren
Research Article


The Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLTFCA) is one of the last refuges for the endangered African wild dog and hosts roughly one-tenth of the global population. Wild dogs in this area are currently threatened by human encroachment, habitat fragmentation and scarcity of suitable connecting habitat between protected areas. We derived genetic data from mitochondrial and nuclear markers to test the following hypotheses: (i) demographic declines in wild dogs have caused a loss of genetic variation, and (ii) Zimbabwean and South African populations in the GLTFCA have diverged due to the effects of isolation and genetic drift. Genetic patterns among five populations, taken with comparisons to known information, illustrate that allelic richness and heterozygosity have been lost over time, presumably due to effects of inbreeding and genetic drift. Genetic structuring has occurred due to low dispersal rates, which was most apparent between Kruger National Park and the Zimbabwean Lowveld. Immediate strategies to improve gene flow should focus on increasing the quality of habitat corridors between reserves in the GLTFCA and securing higher wild dog survival rates in unprotected areas, with human-mediated translocation only undertaken as a last resort.


Carnivore Dispersal Gene flow Habitat fragmentation Phylogeography Southern Africa Trans-frontier conservation areas 



The study was funded through the Spectrum facility at the University of Johannesburg as well as the South African National Research Facility (NRF). Peter Teske, Yoshan Moodley and three anonymous reviewers provided valuable discussions and comments. The study was approved by the University of Johannesburg’s Ethical Committee. Samples were collected in Zimbabwe and imported to South African under permit 13/1/1/30/2/0-2015/01/003889). Kruger National Park samples were provided by the Endangered Wildlife Trust.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Molecular Zoology Laboratory, Department of ZoologyUniversity of JohannesburgJohannesburgSouth Africa
  2. 2.African Wildlife Conservation FundChishakwe RanchZimbabwe
  3. 3.Endangered Wildlife TrustJohannesburgSouth Africa
  4. 4.Centre for Wildlife ManagementUniversity of PretoriaPretoriaSouth Africa

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