Wild Dog [Lycaon pictus]
Wild Dogs (Lycaon Pictus) occur in low population numbers as a consequence of large territories. The Wild Dog is one of Africa’s most endangered mammal species. Various factors contribute to this poor conservation status. The main contributory factor to the decline in population numbers is persecution by mankind, until recently even within conservation areas. Other factors are diseases like rabies and distemper where Wild Dogs came in contact with domestic animals. Genetic inbreeding may be the possible cause of the Kruger National Park Wild Dog’s life expectancy of only 6 years.
This carnivore is a member of the dog family, and measures 750mm at the shoulders. Males are slightly larger than females and weigh 20-30 kg as adults. It has a blotchy yellow, black and white coat. Each individual has a unique coat pattern, which makes it possible to identify every individual in a population with certainty.
Wild Dogs prey mainly on small to medium sized animals, of which the Impala is the favourite prey. In East Africa they have been recorded to hunt prey as large as Wildebeest and Zebra. Wild Dogs hunt in packs, and all individuals collaborate in a team effort to chase and wear out pursued prey to exhaustion. Once brought to a standstill, the prey is killed by all the dogs tearing it apart. Wild Dogs do take livestock in some areas, but this is a fairly rare occurrence. In and around Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, Wild Dogs ignored livestock, and in one case in Zimbabwe they ran through a paddock of calves to chase a Kudu in the neighbouring paddock.
Wild Dogs are seasonal breeders. In South Africa pups are born during mid winter after a gestation period of 70 days. Known as the alpha pair, the dominant male and female are the only dogs to breed in a Wild Dog pack. Other members forego the right to breed and act only as helpers in the pack. As large litters of 12 or more pups are born, the female cannot suckle offspring for too long. From the age of three weeks, milk is supplemented with regurgitated meat brought to the pups by other pack members. A litter is safe guarded in burrows.
Packs may vary in size, ranging from one pair and their young, to as many as 50 individuals. Wild Dogs are intensely social animals, spending almost all of their time in close association with each other. It is one of the most efficient of all predators, and will attack victims of all sizes, from large Elands to small Hares. Its organized method of hunting enables it to bring down its prey quickly, sometimes in a few seconds. The prey is fed upon, sometimes while still alive, and may be entirely consumed within a few minutes.
African Wild Dogs can be found in areas of moderately dense bush and open plains.
Where they are found
Their nomadic movements make simple estimates of their distribution difficult. Until very recently, the range of the Wild Dog included much of sub-Saharan Africa, apart from rainforest areas and deserts. Now, however, they have been extirpated from most of their range, they are extinct in most countries in West and Central Africa, and in the East and the South they are confined to a few areas where human population density remains low. They are found in the Kruger National Park in South Africa, around Phalaborwa Gate, Tshokwane and Skukuza and south of Afsaal; and on the odd game farm.