Part of the project: The African wild dog

Dog Appeasement Hormone Research Update

One of the main problems seen in captive held African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) is inter-pack aggression. Methods that have been applied to prevent or reduce inter-pack aggression, like the use of sedative drugs, have limited success or have negative side effects. The potential of pheromones to solve behavioural problems of domestic animals has started to be realized over the last decade.

Nowadays, artificial analogues of pheromones can successfully be applied in companion- and farm animals to prevent or reduce behavioural problems such as fear and aggression. Although, pheromones are generally considered to be species-specific, some researchers suggest that highly concentrated solutions of pheromones, specific for one species, could be expected to have similar effects in closely related species. Successful artificial pheromone applications for companion animals (e.g. cats and dogs), might therefore be useful tools to prevent or reduce behavioural problems seen in closely related zoo species or for wildlife management.

Some preliminary (uncontrolled) studies show that wild species seem to be susceptible to artificial pheromones, like Feliway®, Felifriend® and DAP®, which are originally developed for domestic species. Dog appeasing pheromone® (DAP®), an artificial pheromone which was originally developed for domestic dogs, may be an effective tool to prevent or reduce behavioural problems seen in canid species, like the African wild dog. The biological function of DAP® in its natural form is to calm and reassure (appease) new born puppies 2-5 days after parturition until weaning. The natural form of DAP® has been identified in the sebaceous glands secretions of the intermammary sulcus of bitches shortly after parturition. The aim of the current study is to evaluate if African wild dogs perceive DAP® and to determine if DAP® has effect on their aggressive behaviour. During the first phase perception of DAP®  was evaluated by comparing the proportion of time subjects spend on exploration of and their behavioural reaction towards areas treated with DAP® or Placebo spray.

These experiments showed differences in behaviour between placebo and DAP® suggesting that DAP® can be recognized.

We have now embarked on the second phase to determine if DAP® has an effect on aggressive behaviour by measuring the number of agonistic, submissive and affiliative interactions. Faecal sample collection will be used to determine if DAP® treatment has an effect on social stress by monitoring corticosteroid metabolite concentrations. This study is currently underway at the Wildt Breeding Centre (South-Africa) and in close collaboration with Professor Henk Bertschinger (University of Pretoria).

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Background and highlights

Team members

monique

Monique Paris

IBREAM Research Director

femkevandenberghe

Femke Van den Berghe

IBREAM PhD Student, James Cook University

damien.paris

Damien Paris

James Cook University

michael.briggs

Michael Briggs

African Predator Conservation Program (APCRO)

wenche.farstad

Wenche Farstad

IBREAM Advisory Board member, Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU)

Leanne Van der Weyde

Leanne Van der Weyde

IBREAM PhD Student, University of Western Australia

Alex Vergara-Lansdell

Alex Vergara-Lansdell

University of Cumbria

Zoltan Sarnyai

Zoltan Sarnyai

James Cook University

Andre Ganswindt

Andre Ganswindt

IBREAM Advisory Board member, University of Pretoria

Collaborators : Albuquerque BioPark Zoo, Topeka Zoological Park, Binder Park Zoo, Brookfield Zoo, Edinburgh Zoo, Colchester Zoo, Zoo Duisburg, Artis Zoo, Harnas Wildlife Foundation, West Midland Safari and Leisure Park, Oklahoma City Zoo, Port Lympne Wild Animal Park, The Wildt Breeding Centre, Kerkrade Zoo, Prof. Graeme Martin (University of Western Australia), Prof. Henk Bertschinger.

Captivity Studies Sponsors : University of Western Australia, IMV, James Cook University, EI Medical Imaging (USA).

In situ collaborators : Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (Dave Druce).

Sponsors : Sophie Danforth Conservation Biology Fund, EI Medical Imaging, Fresno Chaffee Zoo, Morris Animal Foundation, Olympus, Roche.