Although dholes share space with other large carnivores, their ecological niche is as important as any of the other species we are scrambling to save. The role of predators in keeping prey species in check, for a biodiverse and balanced ecosystem, has been well documented. For instance, the ecological importance of dholes was demonstrated in a study from Bhutan. During the 1980s, dholes were culled to local extinction by the government. With the removal of this apex predator, the population of wild pigs exploded, resulting in the destruction of crops on an unimaginable scale. When dholes were reintroduced in the area, the number of wild pigs reduced to a manageable level. Therefore, the local communities in these areas look upon dholes in a relatively more favorable light, and actually admit to the importance of having large carnivores around.
Dholes are classified as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and protected under Schedule 2 of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Lacking the charismatic allure of the big cats, and being largely unknown to most people, dholes have remained understudied. We owe a lot to Dr. A.J.T Johnsingh for his seminal work on dholes back in the 1970s, the first ever scientific study of this amazing canid. Thereafter, and up until 2010, there has been roughly one dhole-targeted study per decade in India; a stark contrast to the dozens of studies on other endangered animals such as tigers and elephants. As a consequence, there are significant gaps in our understanding of their current numbers, home ranges, extent of threats, and conservation measures required.