BOOKS: Wild Dogs: past & present

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2005:

Wild Dogs: past & present
by Kelly Milner Halls
Darby Creek Publishing
(7858 Industrial Parkway, Plain City, OH 43064), 2005. 64 pages,
hardcover, illustrated. $18.95.

Addressing children, Kelly Milner Halls in Wild Dogs pleads
for appreciation and tolerance of coyotes, dingoes, dholes, foxes,
wolves, and other wild canines. Often persecuted as alleged
predators of livestock, each in truth preys much more heavily on
rodents and other so-called nuisance wildlife.
Wild Dogs is overall a unique and fascinating look at dogs
and dog relatives who predate humanity. Tracing the evolution of
dogs, Milner Halls points out that each variety of living wild dog
is a remnant of the evolution of current domestic pet dogs, and
observes that contrary to stereotype, not all primitive dogs are
ferocious carnivores. Many routinely consume some plant food. The
mild-mannered maned wolf of southern South America is especially fond
of fruit.
Much more could have been said about primitive dogs, humans,
and our influences on each other, had Milner Halls not been obliged
to work within a set length limit.

Another whole book could have been written about the plight
of primitive dogs today. Not only wild dogs but also the oldest
branches of the domestic dog family are often abominably treated. In
this category are Asian street dogs, African pariah dogs, and
tanukis, or “Asian raccoon dogs.”
Tanuki now exist mainly on Chinese fur farms. Some are
skinned alive, according to recent exposes by Swiss Animal
Protection, the Environment & Animal Society of Taiwan, Care For
The Wild, of Britain, and the Beijing News.
Milner Halls did not mention farmed tanuki, and mostly
missed opportunities to expose some of the many misguided efforts to
“conserve” wild dogs by means which might actually ensure their
extinction.
Page 29, for example, describes the Channel Islands fox,
native only to six islands off the California coast, without
mentioning that the fox has become endangered as result of a 35-year
putsch against feral livestock waged by the National Park Service and
The Nature Conservancy.
The foxes prospered at first, feasting on dead animals. But
golden eagles flew in from the mainland to share the carrion. When
the carrion ran out, the eagles turned on the foxes, as well as the
young of the surviving pigs.
Now the official line is that eradicating the pigs will send the
eagles elsewhere, but they might eat the last foxes first, other
than those in a captive breeding program.
On pages 40-41 Milner Halls praises Ethiopia Wolf
Conservation Program founder Claudio Sillero for allegedly saving
Ethiopian wolves from an October 2003 rabies epidemic by vaccinating
local domestic dogs.
In actuality, the EWCP vaccinated some pet dogs and working
dogs, but for nearly three years ignored the recommendation of
Homeless Animal Protection Society cofounder Efrem Legese that street
dogs should be vaccinated too. Sillero and his successor, Stuart
Williams, sought to shoot the the street dogs instead, to keep them
from possibly mating with the wolves.
The EWCP ended the dog vaccination effort in July 2003.
Within weeks another HAPS cofounder, Hana Kifle, photographed an
apparently rabid wolf. The EWCP failed to respond to this and other
early warnings of a rabies outbreak until October, when it seized
upon the outbreak as a new pretext to shoot street dogs, and grossly
overstated the amount of vaccination that had been done–as their own
annual reports revealed.
Fleeing gunfire, the surviving street dogs ran for cover,
toward the wolves’ habitat.
For exposing the situation through ANIMAL PEOPLE, Kifle and
Legese both lost senior positions at Bale Mountains National Park,
and were persecuted with bogus criminal charges, eventually rejected
by the courts in both Addis Ababa and Goma.
ANIMAL PEOPLE is now paying Kifle and Legese modest salaries
while they continue the work of HAPS.
Milner Halls, to her credit, was appalled at discovering
her oversights. She promised immediately to seek ways to set the
record straight in future writings.

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