ALL IN THE FAMILY
Also called the Cape hunting dog or painted dog, each African Wild Dog has a unique pattern of multi-coloured patches on their coat making individuals easy to identify. They have large ears and a white tip on their tail, which is frequently raised in the air. Unlike wolves and other dogs, they have only 4 toes instead of 5 (no dew claw on their front feet). They are highly social creatures and live in packs of up to twenty animals. Due to the hierarchical social system, only the alpha male and female mate. The whole pack is involved in caring for the pups which are born in litters of up to 20. Many of these pups die before they reach maturity, however, whether from exposure, disease or starvation in lean times and the maximum size of packs has reduced considerably in recent years.
Wild dogs hunt as a pack and are exceptionally efficient due to the fact that they communicate with one another while on the move and as a result, it’s very rare that identified prey will escape their attack. They communicate at all times, not only while hunting, through a series of barks, howls and yips which all serve a different, specific purpose. They are very quick, gaining speeds of up to 70kph/40mph, and have great stamina enabling them to run for long distances. They prey on a wide variety of animals from rats to wildebeest. Larger prey are generally injured, ill or old animals and wild dog thus play an important role in ensuring the strength of prey species.
Challenges & Solutions
As with many predators, African wild dog do occasionally prey on livestock making them a target for farmers who kill them in retaliation. African wild dog are also susceptible to diseases prevalent in domestic animals. Their habitat is shrinking and prey is diminishing putting African wild dog populations under pressure. They are possibly the continent’s most endangered predator.
Scouts who track wild dog and alert herders to their presence, allowing them to move livestock have proved to successfully reduce the incidents of wild dog predation. Educating people about housing livestock in predator-proof bomas at night has also proved to be an effective initiative in reducing human-wild dog conflict as has highlighting the economic benefits of wildlife tourism. Ensuring that the habitat of Africa wild dogs is preserved is essential to their long-term survival and is a priority for conservationists.