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Animals 2018, 8(5), 67; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani8050067

Anthropogenic Food Subsidy to a Commensal Carnivore: The Value and Supply of Human Faeces in the Diet of Free-Ranging Dogs

1
CSIRO Land and Water, GPO Box 2583, Brisbane, QLD 4001, Australia
2
Canine and Equine Research Group, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia
3
Department of Wildland Resources, Utah State University, 5230 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322-5230, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 23 March 2018 / Revised: 19 April 2018 / Accepted: 21 April 2018 / Published: 27 April 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Management in the 21st Century)
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Abstract

As the global population of free-ranging domestic dogs grows, there is increasing concern about impacts on human health and wildlife conservation. Effective management of dog populations requires reliable information on their diet, feeding behavior, and social ecology. Free-ranging dogs are reliant on humans, but anthropogenic food subsidies, particularly human faeces (i.e., coprophagy) have not previously been fully quantified. In this study we assess the contributions of different food types to the diet, and their influences on the social behaviour of free-ranging dogs in communal lands of rural Zimbabwe, with a focus on coprophagy. Free-ranging dog diets, body condition, and sociology were studied amongst 72 dogs over 18 months using scat analysis and direct observations. Human faeces constituted the fourth most common item in scats (56% occurrence) and contributed 21% by mass to the observed diet. Human faeces represented a valuable resource because relative to other food items it was consistently available, and of higher nutritional value than ‘sadza’ (maize porridge, the human staple and primary human-derived food), yielding 18.7% crude protein and 18.7 KJ/kg gross energy, compared to 8.3% and 18.5 KJ/kg for sadza, respectively. Human faeces had protein and energy values equivalent to mammal remains, another important food item. Dog condition was generally good, with 64% of adult females and 74% of adult males in the highest two body condition scores (on a five point scale), suggesting a plentiful and high quality food supply. Dogs largely fed alone, perhaps as a consequence of the small, inert, and spatially dispersed items that comprise their diet, and its abundance. We discuss the relationships between sanitation, human development, the supply of human faeces, female dog fertility, and population control. View Full-Text
Keywords: canine nutrition; coprophagy; Dog Development Index; rabies; scavenging; social ecology canine nutrition; coprophagy; Dog Development Index; rabies; scavenging; social ecology
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Butler, J.R.A.; Brown, W.Y.; Du Toit, J.T. Anthropogenic Food Subsidy to a Commensal Carnivore: The Value and Supply of Human Faeces in the Diet of Free-Ranging Dogs. Animals 2018, 8, 67.

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