Conservationists want to build better barriers to protect African wild dogs -- but, instead of metal or wood fences, they're trying to craft biological blockades. The trick? Wild dog urine.
The pee of another pack acts as a chemical "Keep Out!" sign to territorial African wild dogs. By spreading the urine around protected wildlife areas, biologists hope that these dogs will stay away from dangerous areas.
Wild dogs -- which aren't feral versions of domesticated pups but a distinct species -- have a bad reputation as livestock predators. As a result, farmers who feel their livelihoods are threatened will shoot or poison the dogs. Across the African continent, there are fewer than 5,000 African wild dogs left, a decrease of almost 99 percent over the past century.
To help the dogs that remain, scientists at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology have gathered pee-soaked sand and placed it along the border of protected wild dog territory. The odorous obstacle worked. "We found that the scent marks from foreign packs kept the wild dogs from moving into those areas," says biologist Craig R. Jackson, in a press release.