Camp Jabulani and the Kapama Game Reserve were treated to an amazing sighting of two beautiful female African wild dogs, also known as Cape hunting dogs or painted wolves of Africa. These two dogs are believed to have come from one of the neighbouring reserves, probably in search of new hunting ground or possibly a new den site.
Wild dogs often send out “scouts” (select members from the pack) to go search new areas to see if that space will be suitable for the whole pack. Sometimes members also split from the pack to go find new areas to start a new pack. Wild dogs have been recorded to travel up to 50 km in search of food in a single day, and in one case a pack travelled over 350 km to a new den sight.
The African wild dog is a rare canine species and listed as the second most endangered carnivore in Africa. These amazing and wonderful animals are highly social, spending almost all of their time in close association with each other. They occur in packs of 6 – 50, but most packs average around 12 members. It has been documented that packs of 30 tend to be the most successful in hunting, but due to loss of habitat and canine diseases packs of this magnitude are seldom seen.
Wild dogs live in an alpha social structure with one dominant male and female; and only this alpha pair mates to ensure that the pack does not become too large for an area.
The African wild dog is not a very large canine, it reaches a shoulder height of around 60 – 75 cm and weight 17 – 25 kg. The full body length is 106 – 150 cm with the tail length being 30 – 40 cm.
A few interesting facts about wild dogs:
- When a litter of pups is born, they take priority over even the alphas. Pups are always fed first by dogs regurgitating fresh meat after returning from a hunt. Once old enough they are taken to the kill and given first choice over the spoils.
- Wild dogs are nomadic animals and can traverse 50km in a single day. As a result, their territories can range between 400 and 1500 square kilometres. They only remain in one area when denning.
- Unlike most other pack animals, male wild dogs tend to stay within their pack’s territory once reaching sexual maturity, whereas the females will travel long distances to find a mate. This behaviour is a good countermeasure against inbreeding.
- Wild dogs are agile hunters. Most predators rely on stealth to hunt their prey, but wild dogs rarely require such tactics. The dogs are built for high stamina chases. A typical hunt will involve the pack spreading out in a line to cover more ground and give each member space to manoeuvre.
It is believed that there are between 3 000 – 5 000 African wild dogs left in Africa, and only a few hundred in South Africa. The African wild dog is considered to be extinct in 23 African countries. The main reasons for their decline is persecution by mankind, loss of habitat and diseases such as rabies. Thankfully there are conservation projects in place to try and save these incredible animals.
We hope these amazing animals make our reserve their new home so they can add to the plenty wonderful sightings we’ve already enjoy.
We were able to get this short footage of these two females: