The Potential Contribution of Ecotourism to African Wild Dog Lyacon pictus Conservation in South Africa
African wild dogs are endangered, and in South Africa as elsewhere, they inhabit a fraction of their former range. In this study, we assessed the potential for economic benefits derived from ecotourism to offset the costs of three wild dog conservation options using a contingent valuation study of the willingness of visitors to four protected areas to pay to see wild dogs at the den – within a viable population in a large protected area (Kruger National Park), through reintroduction into nature reserves, and through the conservation of wild dogs occurring on ranchland in situ. Results indicated that tourism revenue from wild dogs in large protected areas is more than sufficient to offset the costs and could potentially be used to subsidise wild dog reintroductions or the conservation of wild dogs in situ on ranchland. On ranchland and for reintroductions, tourism revenue was generally predicted to offset most of the costs of conserving wild dogs where predation costs are low, and to exceed the costs where willingness to pay is high, and/or where the costs of predation by wild dogs are zero. Conservation efforts should facilitate the derivation of eco-tourism-related benefits from wild dogs on ranchland and in private reserves to create incentives for wild dog conservation. Ecotourism should be part of a multifaceted approach to wild dog conservation which also includes education and awareness campaigns, and efforts to encourage landowners to cooperate to form conservancies.