Parental care of unrelated young in species able to recognize their own offspring is called adoption. Here, we establish adoption as a novel conservation tool for endangered African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) to augment the size of existing packs in situ and to enhance gene flow among isolated populations. Three cases of facilitated adoption of orphaned pups by unrelated free-ranging wild dogs are reported. All pups were successfully integrated into an adoptive pack. Besides individual fitness benefits accruing from larger pack size, we propose that wild dogs may also adopt pups due to benefits relating to the future reproductive value of unrelated individuals. This study will hopefully stimulate further research on the adaptive value and conservation implications of adoption in other endangered species.
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Vol. 38 • No. 2