Canid 'Cures' Threaten World's Wild Dog Populations


The golden jackal is used in parts of India and Vietnam to treat asthma, arthritis, and paralysis. Photo by Paul Mannix via Flickr.

In some cultures, if a child gets chicken pox, his mother doesn't cook up a big pot of soup to make him feel better -- she feeds him wolf parts to treat the illness. Such traditional medicinal practices, known to threaten primate species as well as tigers and bears, also pose a shocking danger to wild dogs: Half of all known wild canid species, including two endangered ones, are harvested for use in folk treatments.According to the BBC, a team of researchers led by Professor Romulo Alves of the State University of Paraiba in Brazil "found evidence that canids are used in the treatment of at least 28 medical conditions, including asthma, arthritis, back ache, bronchial illnesses, chicken pox, eczema, epilepsy, flu, kidney diseases, measles and mumps, as well as the treatment of stomach complaints, snake bites, and warts."

Half of All Wild Canids Used in Traditional Medicine
The practice dates back more than a thousand years, the BBC reports, with medieval manuscripts from Azerbaijan detailing the use of wolves, foxes, and jackals in medicinal treatments.

Alves' team, which conducted a similar review dealing with primates earlier this year, found that 19 out of 35 known species of wild canid are employed in traditional medicine, making them among the most frequently used mammals worldwide. Of these 19 species, the IUCN Red List classifies two as endangered and three as "near threatened"; trade in at least 10 is supposed to be restricted by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Coyotes and Foxes Hunted for Remedies
In India, the researchers wrote, the Indian fox is hunted for its skin, tail, teeth, and claws for "medicinal and charm purposes," while coyotes in Mexico and Asiatic wild dogs in China can face similar fates.

Though wild dogs can often recover faster from population decreases due to their high reproductive rate, the researchers concluded that such practices place added pressure on species that are already suffering from habitat loss and restricted ranges and require further action to monitor and minimize.

More about wild dogs:
1/4 of Rocky Gray Wolves Killed in First Hunting Season in Decades
California Discovers New Red Fox Subspecies is Native After All
From the Forums: Coyotes: Friend, Foe, Nuisance?
Reintroducing Wolves to Scotland Could Bring Back the Forests of Old
With Help from Species Survival Plan, Red Wolves May Have a Future

Tags: Animals | China | Developing Nations | Dogs | India | Mexico

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