Hybridisation Threat in the Himalaya

Lauren Hennelly


Chosen as 'Picture of the Week'

This alarming picture shows yet another threat to the severely endangered Himalayan wolf population -- hybridization with domestic or feral dogs. Wolf-Dog hybridization has been observed from other parts of the world, including Italy and Canada, and is a very grave threat to the genetic integrity of Himalayan wolves.

The Himalayan wolf was only recently distinguished as the oldest lineage within Canis lupus, yet little is known about its ecology, distribution and behavior. In Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh, the wolf population was last estimated in 1995 at 350 individuals, and is listed as protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act. Due to human-induced pressures, this incredibly unique wolf lineage faces a variety of threats. Additionally, feral dogs have been known to endanger wild canid populations through disease transmission, hybridization, and competition.

I took this picture while studying Himalayan wolves in Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh. Although this is just one sighting, it raises concerns about the dynamics of wolf-dog interaction in this region and the impact of these interactions on the conservation of the Himalayan wolf. 

Further Reading:

Hennelly L., B. Habib, and S. Lyngdoh. 2015. Himalayan wolf and feral dog displaying mating behavior from Spiti Valley, India and potential conservation threats from sympatric feral dogs. Canid Biology & Conservation 18(9): 33-36. 

Click here to read about other threats to wildlife posed by domestic and feral dogs. 

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About the author

Lauren Hennelly

Lauren Hennelly is a Fullbright Researcher affiliated with the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), and spent 11 months studying Himalayan and Indian wolves in 2014.