Mange outbreak reported among Asiatic wild dogs in Mudumalai

According to officials, three animals of the pack are believed to have been affected by mange, a type of skin disease caused by parasitic mites.

Published - April 11, 2024 04:30 pm IST - UDHAGAMANDALAM

Asiatic wild dogs. File

Asiatic wild dogs. File | Photo Credit: M.A. Sriram

The forest department is monitoring an outbreak of mange among a pack of Asiatic wild dogs in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) in the Nilgiris, which they strongly suspect has spread to the animals through the local feral dog population.

The pack of Asiatic wild dogs, also known as dhole, are known to operate around Bokkapuram in MTR, a high human-wildlife interface area. According to officials, three animals of the pack are believed to have been affected by mange, a type of skin disease caused by parasitic mites.

When contacted, Field Director of MTR, D. Venkatesh, said the forest department was aware of the outbreak, but said that field staff had noticed the occurrence of mange among the pack during each summer. “From their experience, they say that it clears up as the season progresses,” he said, adding that the forest department was monitoring the situation with the help of forest veterinarians.

Conservationists from the Nilgiris state that the incident highlighted the need to remove free-ranging feral dogs from high interface areas shared by humans and wildlife, as well as protected areas like tiger reserves.

N. Mohanraj, a conservationist, said feral dogs living in areas bordering and within protected areas pose a huge threat to wildlife. “Apart from being predators, they also spread multiple diseases among other wild canids, such as mange, canine distemper and even rabies,” he said.

Other conservationists called for Animal Birth Control (ABC) programmes to be implemented in villages located around the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve and also to remove feral, free-ranging dogs from the landscape.

Mr. Mohanraj said the forest department should also consider capturing the affected animals and treating them before releasing them back into the wild, to prevent the disease from spreading further.

P. Arunkumar, Deputy Director of MTR (Buffer Zone), said the department of animal husbandry, which had vaccinated feral dogs in areas within and surrounding the tiger reserve had also treated a few animals for mange recently. “We are taking active steps to prevent chances of the disease spreading to wildlife,” he said.

He added that camera traps have been placed around Bokkapuram to monitor the pack of wild dogs, while teams have been formed to also keep tabs on the animals. “For the moment, the animals seem to be doing well, with a reported kill of a deer being noticed on Thursday (April 11, 2024) by the pack,” he said, adding that the forest department will continue to monitor the situation and decide if more direct interventions were necessary to treat the animals.

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