South Africa is one of only seven countries with a viable population of African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus). The national population in 2017 was 372 adults and yearlings and comprised three subpopulations: 1) Kruger National Park (Kruger), 2) an intensively managed metapopulation established through reintroductions into isolated, fenced reserves, and 3) a free-roaming population that occurs naturally outside protected areas. We assessed the long-term (four wild dog generations, ∼20 years) trends in population size and growth rate within each of these three subpopulations. We found that Kruger supports a substantial population, which has declined over time. The metapopulation is the only subpopulation that has increased significantly over time (both in population size and number of packs), likely due to intensive conservation efforts and the reintroduction of wild dogs into 15 additional reserves since 1998. The free-roaming subpopulation has remained small but stable, even though the number of packs has declined due to anthropogenic threats. The overall national population has remained stable even though the number of packs has increased. Kruger has consistently supported the highest proportion of the national population over the last two decades. However, the contribution of the metapopulation has increased significantly over time. It is clear that despite differences in survey effort among the three subpopulations, South Africa has a small (∼500) but stable population of wild dogs, with the metapopulation contribution becoming increasingly important. The circumstances in the country necessitate, and demonstrate the benefit of, intensive, adaptive management for the national population of wild dogs. While this assessment provides baseline information for the three subpopulations, wild dog conservation in South Africa would benefit greatly from equal survey effort and standardized methods to accurately assess long-term population trends.
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