The objective of the study was to develop a bait and baiting system capable of delivering one effective dose of oral rabies vaccine to each member of a free-ranging African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) pack. Trials were conducted between June and October 2000. The results of cafeteria-style bait preference trials testing seven candidate baits in captive wild dogs revealed a significant preference for chicken heads (June trials: P = 0.023, September trials: P = 0.021). Trials using a topical biomarker (rhodamine B) showed that chicken head baits were sufficiently chewed on most occasions to rupture the vaccine container. Free-ranging wild dogs and young pups ingested chicken head baits. Significant dominance of bait intake by a single individual was seen in four of six study packs and in the three packs in which an alpha pair could be distinguished, the dominant feeder was an alpha animal. Pattern of bait distribution and degree of satiation had no effect on pack coverage (proportion of pack ingesting at least one bait). Pack coverage was significantly related to trial number (r = 0.71, P < 0.001), with pack coverage increasing with increased exposure of the pack to the baits. During 46 hr of diurnal observations of free-ranging wild dogs only two baits were lost to non-target species. A baiting system for the oral vaccination of captive and free-ranging wild dogs is proposed.
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