Are African Wild Dogs Endangered?Painted Dog Facts.
The Painted dogs of Africa, also known as the African Wild Dog, Cape Hunting Dog, Ornate Wolf and by a host of other names, is Africa's largest, and the world's second largest wild candid.
Today, this colorful and rather distinctive looking canine roams the sub Saharan plains and woodlands of eastern and southern Africa.
Although tiny populations do still exist in the north and west of the country, the African Wild dog was once present throughout the sub Saharan range.
At the time of writing, due to declining numbers and remaining threats, the Painted Dog has earned the status of endangered.
African Painted Dog Description and Size
When translated, the dogs' Latin name, Lycaon Pictus, literally means painted wolf and refers to the dogs' uniquely mottled coat of brown, black, red, orange, grey and white fur. Each African Wild dog has a truly unique pattern of coloration, enabling those who study them to track individuals. In north east Africa however, wild dogs are predominantly black with small yellow and white patches, in contrast, the dogs in southern Africa tend to be more brightly coloured with a combination of black, brown and white markings.
The fur on the dog's body and limbs is short and wiry but longer on the neck and the species has relatively long legs, with a lean and muscular body. The African Painted Dog's tail is also quite bushy with a white tip.
Another distinctive feature is the ears, they're not only larger that that of other canines, but much more rounded.
The wild dog's foot contains four digits, each with claws and the majority of individuals pads on the second and third toes are partially fused.
On average, males are slightly heavier than their female counterparts, with dogs weighing between 20 and 30 Kgs and reaching a height of up to 60 inches.
Pictures of the African Painted DogClick thumbnail to view full-size
Painted Dog Behaviour and Reproduction
African Painted Dogs are very social animals indeed, and whenever possible will spend all of their time in close proximity to each other. Packs can be as small as one pair, or as large as 30. The larger the pack, the greater chance of survival for the group. In fact, packs of four or less are highly unlikely to successfully raise a litter of pups.
A Pack is usually established when litter mates, consisting of small same gender subgroups, leave their natal pack and join other litter mates, same gender sub groups from another pack. Consequently, the new found pack will consist of females who are closely related and males who are closely related, but the females are not closely related to the males, which ensures that the pack have a potentially reproductive pair.
When the pack consists of more than two adults, the reproductive pair are the alpha male and female. In the majority of cases, the alpha female will give birth to all the pups and the alpha male will father them. However in larger packs, where there are twenty plus members in the group, females other than the alpha may also reproduce.
Births are seasonal, depending on the region, and the gestation period is between 71 and 73 days. Litters are particularly large in relation to the dog's body weight and an average litter is between nine and eleven pups. On occasion however, a litter can exceed 20.
Pups are born in a den, usually underground, which has typically been used and abandoned by other animals such as the aardvark. On average, the infants will weigh between 300 and 350 grams. During the early lactation period the mother is confined to the den and her food is provided by the other pack members. After 4 weeks, the pack will continue to feed both the mother and pups by regurgitating pieces of meat.
Such is the social structure of the pack, that all members are responsible for the welfare of the pups, often babysitting when the others have gone hunting.
By the eighth week the pups are usually fully weaned, nevertheless, they will continue to inhabit the den up until their 16th week.
Both male and female African Wild Dogs will reach sexual reproductive maturity during their second year, however, subordinates within the pack are socially suppressed when it comes to reproduction so few very few will actually breed at this age.
In their natural habitat, the wild dog can live for up to 10 years, slightly longer when kept in captivity.
African Painted Dogs: Habitat and Foraging
Painted Dogs occupy a diverse range of habitats; from semi-desert to forest, open plains to bushy savannas. The availability of food is paramount when the animals select a range.
These dogs are formidable predators, hunting and taking down animals weighing from 50 to 200 Kgs, which is quite a feat when you consider that most wild dogs only weigh between 20 and 30 Kgs themselves. Typically, the dogs will hunt mid sized antelope, impala, wildebeest and Thompson's Gazelle. Nevertheless, smaller animals such as lizards, birds and hare will be hunted and form part of the dogs' diet.
Wild dogs hunt in packs and can reach speeds of up to 60Km per hour during chase. Hunts are often well coordinated events, where one member of the pack may attack and the remainder help bring the prey to the ground. Alternatively, one member may bite the nose of the prey, whilst the others make the kill. Their victim is frequently disemboweled during the hunt.
When the pack hunt as a collective, they are highly successful predators.
Distribution of the African Wild Dog
How Many African Painted Dogs are Left in the World? Are They Endangered.
By their very nature, African wild dogs are nomadic. Outside of the denning period, where the dogs remain relatively close to their base, the animals will roam large areas in search of food and to avoid predation.
In the main, the most common cause of natural mortality in adults is predation by lions. Nevertheless, disease is also responsible for the declining numbers in some regions, and rabies is believed to be partly responsible for the animals' extinction in others. Canine distemper has also been responsible for moralities in some packs, although the incidences are less frequent.
Unfortunately, more than half of the incidences of mortality in adult wild dogs are caused by human activity. Even when the dogs inhabit reserves and conservation parks, they will often roam beyond the boundaries and encounter traffic, poison, snares, and guns, in addition to domestic dogs, hence the spread of diseases such as rabies and canine distemper.
According to the latest available data, the wild dog has been completely eradicated from 25 of the 39 states which it once inhabited. And the current population is estimated between 3,000 to 5,500 wild dogs across Africa. (Ginsberg and Woodruffe, 1997)
Even outside of reserves and parks, the African Wild Dog is legally protected, unfortunately however, the laws are rarely enforced.
As such, due to declining populations and remaining threats, the African Wild Dog is considered to be one of Africa's most endangered species.
© Lisa Diver, 2013. Share, don't copy.