African Wild Dogs (Lyacon pictus) are roughly the size of a domestic German Shepard with long legs and a bushy tail. Their bodies are irregularly blotched black, white, brown and yellowish-brown with no two individuals marked the same. They are highly social living in packs of between 10 and 15 Dogs on average with a pack consisting of several related adult males and one or more related adult female. Only the dominant female will raise a litter of pups with the rest of the pack assisting with protection and feeding her and the pups with regurgitated meat. Hunting is done by several members of the pack and after the prey animal is selected a long distance chase will follow that can last for several kilometres. The prey animals range from small Steenbok to larger Antelopes like Kudu and Blue Wildebeest and are killed by being disembowelled and ripped apart. They are considered to be one of the most efficient and successful hunters on the continent with a hunting success rate of more than 70%.
It is because of this killing method that they have a really bad reputation of being savage killers that causes a lot of suffering to prey animals before dying. However it has been proven that most prey animals die quicker than being suffocated by the other big cats like Lion and Leopard. Most of the hunting is done during the early morning or late afternoon hours. They are also one of the truly nomadic carnivores with huge home ranges of several hundred km2 but this means that they need massive areas to roam. They also have a tendency to hunt domestic animals when the opportunity arise which led to them being heavily hunted in the past. The result was their becoming endangered with only the Ethiopian Wolf surviving in smaller numbers in Africa.
Currently there are viable populations left only in:
— South Africa
— Kenya and
African Wild Dogs are mostly in the larger wildlife conservation areas. Programs like the Painted Dog Conservation Project based in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park and N/a’ankusê in Namibia are key to relocation projects and educational campaigns to try and save this incredible animal.
On our safaris over the last few months we had some wonderful sightings across Southern Africa.
While on a breakfast boat cruise on the Okavango River we came across a pack with a fresh warthog kill. We got to spend about an hour with a pack of 18 dogs in Chobe National Park, Botswana on two consecutive days. In Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana we discovered a den site and spend a full afternoon with the dogs until they left to hunt. Join Nature Travel Africa on safari to see these spectacular animals!