In the districts neighbouring the Serengeti National Park rabies, mostly spread by domestic dogs, causes about 50 human deaths each year. The disease can also be transmitted to wildlife, and is a particular risk for wild dogs as their social nature makes epidemics more likely. It is suspected that rabies infection contributed to the disappearance of wild dogs from the Serengeti in the early 1990s. They have now begun to recolonize the area, but the disease still represents an imminent threat to their survival.
Studies suggest that if 70% of domestic dogs were vaccinated this would be enough to eliminate rabies from the area. This is what the Global Animal Health Tanzania intends to achieve, removing the risk to the wild dogs, local people and livestock. Vaccinations would also cover canine distemper and parvovirus, eliminating these diseases as well. This would remove one of the most immediate threats to the wild dog populations expanding back into this landscape.
A Tusk grant for fuel, staff and syringes enabled the vaccination of 7,800 domestic dogs in 30 Maasai communities on the eastern boundaries of the Serengeti National Park, nearest to the returning wild dog packs.
The Serengeti is one of the few intact ecosystems in East Africa large enough to hold a viable population of wild dogs. We must ensure that this project achieves its goal to protect this endangered species.