Today’s endangered animal comes to you from southern Africa; specifically northern Botswana, western Zimbabwe, eastern Namibia and western Zambia. The species goes by many names: Painted Hunting dog, African wild dog or the Cape Hunting Dog.
The name Painted Hunting dog is derived from the splotchy markings on the dog’s coat. Each dog has its own unique markings that other pack members are able to identify. African wild dogs grow to be about 30 inches tall (which is a little over 2 feet), be about 30-56 inches long (2 feet-5 feet) and will weigh about 40 to 70 pounds as adults. Their preferred habitat is low grassy areas such as savannas, semi-desert areas or upland forests. African wild dogs are highly social individuals. Pack sizes can average about 10 to 40 or more individuals. Their primary prey are gazelles and antelopes such as the Impala, Greater Kudu and Thomson’s Gazelle. However, they have been known to take down larger prey such as wildebeest and African buffalo. If food is scarce, they’ll go for smaller prey such as hares, lizards and eggs but that’s a very small diet in comparison to what they normally eat. Painted hunting dogs can reach run speeds up to 45 mph.
Pack structure where reproduction is concerned involves the alpha male and alpha female producing offspring and the remaining individuals of the pack help to take care of the litter. It has been suggested that females of the pack become mature around 3 years of age. Litter size can very but African wild dogs are known to produce up to 16 pups in a pack per year. Most mammal species, when having a sick or disabled offspring or member, that member is usually left behind or killed. African wild dogs are one of the few mammal species who actually take care of their sick or disabled pups. Majority of the pack are usually males.
In 1990, African wild dogs were classified on the IUCN Red List as endangered and they have maintained that status since with the population consistently decreasing. There are thought to be only about 6600 or less individuals left in the wild. The major threat to African wild dogs are habitat loss and fragmentation. Humans have moved into their territory and have begun to overpopulate the area. This creates human-wildlife conflict and spread of zoonotic diseases (diseases that can be spread between humans an animals). Rabies is one example of a zoonotic disease that can pass from animals to humans. Because humans are taking over, African wild dogs end up becoming in danger of predation from larger animals like Lions and hyenas who are picking them off while they’re trying to hunt their prey.
Conservation efforts have been ongoing as much as possible. There are strategies in place for a few areas in Africa. In some areas this involves capture and release where conservationists give the dogs rabies shots and then release them in order to lower the spread of disease. They also aim to keep the gene pool diverse by creating packs with orphaned pups. There are also outreach programs in place so that the general public can educate themselves and the general perception of the painted hunting dog can change for the better.
If this story moved you a little today, consider adopting an African Wild Dog here.