The managed metapopulation of African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) in South Africa consists of a number of subpopulations in geographically isolated reserves. These subpopulations are managed as one metapopulation through direct human intervention. Central to the success of the managed metapopulation is the artificial formation of packs by bonding groups of unrelated male and female wild dogs prior to release. Here, we provide data from both a failed and a successful bonding attempt in the De Beers Venetia Limpopo Nature Reserve and identify two variables which may be used to determine the probability of a successful artificial bonding attempt: distance to partitioning fence and frequency of ‘hoo-calls’. Both variables decreased significantly with time for the successful bonding attempt but not for the unsuccessful one. Based on our observations we suggest that behavioural observations can provide important cues to predict the success of bonding attempts, and that such cues may be used to terminate bonding attempts that are likely to fail, and hence potentially avoid catastrophic outcomes such as killed or injured animals.
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