African Wild Dog
Conservation Status: Endangered
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The African Wild Dog, Lycaon pictus, also known as the African Hunting Dog, Cape
Hunting Dog, Painted Dog, or Painted Wolf, is a carnivorous mammal of the Canidae
family. The Afrikaans name for the African Wild dog is Wildehond, and in Swahili, Mbwa
mwitu. It is the only species in the monotypic genus, Lycaon. They are, as their name
indicates, found only in Africa, especially in scrub savanna and other lightly wooded
The wild dog's Greek name means painted wolf and it is characteristic of the species
that no two individuals have the same pattern of coat. Individuals can easily be
recognised on the basis of their differing coat patterns. The pelage is an irregular
pattern of black, yellow, and white. The wild dog is unusual among canids, due to the
fact that they are the only species to lack dewclaws on the forelimbs.
Adults typically weigh between 17-36 kilograms (37-79 pounds). A tall, lean animal, they
stand about 30 inches (75 cm) at the shoulder, with a head and body length averaging
about 40 inches (100cm) and a tail of between 12 and 18 inches (30-45cm) Animals in
southern Africa are generally larger than those in the east or west of the continent.
Wild dogs will reproduce any time of year, with a peak between March and June during
the second half of the rainy season. 2-19 pups can be born per litter, though 10 is the
most usual number. The time between births is usually 12-14 months, though it can also
be as short as 6 months if all of the previous young die. Pups are usually born in an
abandoned den dug by other animals such as aardvarks. Weaning takes place at about
10 weeks. After 3 months, the den is abandoned and the pups begin to run with the
pack. At the age of 8-11 months they can kill small prey, but they are not proficient until
about 12-14 months, at which time they can fend for themselves. Pups reach sexual
maturity at the age of 12-18 months. Females will disperse from their birth pack at 14-30
months of age and join other packs that lack sexually mature females. Males typically
do not leave the pack they were born to.
Wild dogs are endangered, primarily because they use very large territories (and
consequently can persist only in large wildlife protected areas) and they are strongly
affected by competition with larger carnivores that rely on the same prey base,
particularly lions and spotted hyenas. The dogs are also killed by livestock herders and
game hunters, though they are typically no more (perhaps less) persecuted than other
carnivores that pose more threat to livestock. Like other carnivores, wild dogs are
sometimes affected by outbreaks of viral diseases such as rabies, distemper and
parvovirus. Although these diseases are not more pathogenic or virulent for wild dogs,
the small size of most wild dog populations makes them vulnerable to local extinction
due to diseases or other problems.
The current estimate for remaining wild dogs in the wild is approximately 3,000. Of these,
the majority live in the two remaining large populations associated with the Selous
Game Reserve in Tanzania and the population centered in northern Botswana and
eastern Namibia. Smaller but apparently secure populations of several hundred
individuals are found in Zimbabwe, South Africa (Kruger National Park) and in the
Ruaha/Rungwa/Kisigo complex of Tanzania. Isolated populations persist in Zambia,
Kenya and Mozambique.
The African Wild Dog is primarily found in the eastern and southern portions of Africa.
They were once found in 39 nations with an estimated population of 500,000 dogs. Now
of the 39 countries only 25 remain with an estimated population of 3,000 dogs. It was not
uncommon to find packs of 100 or more but now they are listed as the second most
endangered carnivore in Africa. They are listed as a critical risk by the San Diego Zoo.
Habitat loss and hunting are the main reasons for their endangerment. Along with
human expansion comes more farming and ranching needs. Most of Africa's National
Parks are not large enough for even one pack of African Wild Dogs so they have to
expand to the unprotected regions of the continent which tends to be ranching or
farming land. This makes ranchers and farmers uneasy, so in order to defend their
domestic animals they kill the Wild Dogs, significantly contributing to the high
percentage of death.
The people of Africa are realizing the problem and the near extinction of the African
Wild Dog and have established a conservation effort called Painted Dog Conservation
or PDC. It is based in Hwange National Park in western Zimbabwe. The group works with
local communities to create new strategies for conserving the wild dog and its habitat.
Help Save Wild Dogs!
Too few people know about the plight of one of the world's most endangered canids, the African
wild dog (Lycaon pictus) or Africa's "painted wolf." This unique pack-living canid, with its large
parabolic ears and mottled coat pattern of yellow, white, and black, once ranged widely
throughout sub-Saharan Africa in 39 countries. Today wild dogs have all but disappeared in 15,
with perhaps no more than 3,000–5,500 remaining. Their dramatic decline is largely due to human
persecution and habitat fragmentation. The IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Canid
Specialist Group, and American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) Canid and Hyaenid Taxon
Advisory Group (TAG) regard African wild dogs as a high-priority species for wildlife conservation.