Climate Change Is Killing Africa's Wild Dogs, Causing Pups to Starve

African wild dogs
A young African wild dog, also called Lycaon pictus, is pictured on August 25, 2014, at the Bioparco of Rome (Rome's zoo). Fewer than 700 packs remain in the wild, and their survival is increasingly threatened by climate change. Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images

A new study highlighting the devastating consequences of climate change on African wild dogs finds a correlation between high temperatures and extinction.

Scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the African Wildlife Conservation Fund and Botswana Predator Conservation Trust carried out concurrent studies in Botswana, Kenya and Zimbabwe, monitoring a total of 73 packs to research correlations between weather conditions and the mammals' hunting activity and reproduction.

The research findings, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Animal Ecology, suggest high temperatures reduce hunting activity, as well as the number of pups being born and surviving each year.

"When most people think about wildlife in a changing climate, they think of polar bears clinging to melting ice, but even species who have adapted to tropical weather are being impacted by the changes to their environment," said professor Rosie Woodroffe of the ZSL's Institute of Zoology, the study's lead author, in a press release.

The spotted carnivores, which are considered to be successful predators because of their high kill rate, are natives to sub-Saharan Africa. They are already listed as an endangered species, with fewer than 700 packs currently remaining in the wild.

"Worryingly, this new threat may be affecting wild dogs deep inside wildlife areas where we would expect them to be protected from human impacts. With habitat fragmented and destroyed in cooler areas, wild dogs have literally nowhere to go. Sadly, climate change may bring extinction a step closer for this amazing species," Woodroffe added.

The researchers will now investigate innovative conservation efforts to counter climate change's effects on the wild dogs.

The study's findings seem consistent with research into the Earth's largely man-made "sixth mass extinction," published this month in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.In that study, scientists found that populations of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians have shrunk globally due to human overpopulation, climate change and habitat destruction.