A closer look at the Wild Dog

by | May 20, 2016 | Leopard Mountain Game Lodge, Photo Blogs | 0 comments

The African Wild Dog, also known as the Painted Wolf (Lycaon pictus) due to its individually unique coat markings, is one of Africa’s most efficient pack or group hunters, with kill rates reported as high as 80%. African Wild Dogs live in packs of 6 to 20 (or more) animals usually dominated by a monogamous breeding pair.

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This means that only one female and male will have pups, but every dog in the pack helps to raise the young and researchers have observed dogs sharing food to assist sick or weak pack members. They are intensely social animals, spending almost all of their time in close association with each other, communicating by touch, actions, and vocalisations. Wild Dogs are unlike other large carnivores in that they rarely fight among themselves, either for food or dominance. They will care for old, sick or injured pack members, regurgitating food and licking wounds clean.

Wild Dogs in the Zululand Rhino Reserve
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African Wild Dogs are well known for their formidable, cooperative hunting strategy that makes them more successful predators then Lions. They use different sounds and calls to communicate with each other before and during the hunt. Their prey includes various antelope species, rodents and birds, and larger prey, such as Wildebeest, particularly ill or injured individuals.

Sadly, African Wild Dogs are endangered. According to the Wild Dog Advisory Group of South Africa, there are an ‘estimated 6 600 free-ranging African Wild Dogs left in Africa. Wild Dogs are the rarest carnivore in South Africa with an estimated population of less than 450 individuals. Despite being legally protected in many of their current range states, the remnant populations continue to face widespread persecution.’

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The main threats are habitat fragmentation and isolation due to human activities, contact with human settlements, and domestic dogs. They are especially vulnerable to diseases carried by domestic dog (e.g. distemper and rabies). Sometimes a lack of prey leads to conflicts with farmers over livestock. Wild dogs do not establish territories and have a very large home range. The average home range of packs in the Serengeti is about 1500 km2 , but conservationists suggest that areas truly large enough to protect their movements from persecution and diseases in domestic dogs should be closer to 10 000km2. Connecting parks and reserves in Africa is helping to create larger areas for this species, and there is a need to protect the dogs outside parks.

An important mission of the Zululand Rhino Reserve is to ‘save endangered spaces for endangered species’, and so it is with great interest and optimism that we wait to see how well our precious new arrivals settle into their new home within the reserve.

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A recent interesting sighting at Leopard Mountain was when a pack of 6 Wild Dogs took down and killed a Kudu. Our Field Guides gave ear to a very interesting sound of commotion between species while they were preparing for the morning game drive, as they followed the sound; they found the dogs on a kill. A splendid sighting for the guests if there ever was.

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