Friday, December 05, 2008

The African Wild Dog

The African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus)(Latin for “painted wolf”) is one of the most endangered carnivores in the world. On our trip to South Africa, the Wild Dog stole our hearts with their beautiful coats. Unfortunately, they are in a lot of trouble, as they are extremely endangered.


African Wild Dogs are quite different from the normal domestic dog and are not closely related to them. They are unique to Africa, and are the only species in their branch of the family tree. Though some may get them confused, African Wild Dogs are not related to Hyenas either. Hyenas are a family of their own, the Hyaenidae. Their body is similar to that of a wolf but the ears are larger and more rounded: they help keep them cool and allow them to hear very well.. Each dog's marking is unique - splotches of black, pale yellow-brown, blonde and white. The muzzle is black and the tip of the tail is always white. The fur is short but shaggy and is a little longer at the end of the tail and around the throat. There is a dark stripe of fur on the forehead. Dogs vary in size from 35 lbs to 70 lbs and stand about 24 inches at the shoulder.


Once common in all areas of Africa, except rain forest and deserts, African wild dogs are extinct or nearly extinct in nearly 32 countries of their former range, and the remaining populations are too small to remain viable. Of the six countries where they still exist, only three (Botswana, Tanzania and South Africa) have populations of more than 300 dogs.


The pack hunts cooperatively. African wild dogs can run almost 40 miles per hour. Their diet includes gazelle, antelope, zebra and warthog. They are extremely efficient hunters and contrary to popular belief, prey is dispatched in seconds rather than minutes. Wild dogs are only carnivorous species to allow their young to feed first. The adults wait until the pups are finished before they will feed. There are fewer than 4,000 African wild dogs left in the wild, perhaps only 2,500. Human hatred and persecution have had the most serious effect. They are shot and poisoned by farmers and ranchers. Road kills and snares take a heavy toll on packs that leave protected areas. Rabies, introduced by domestic dogs, has caused the extinction of at least one population. Lions kill wild dogs and hyenas steal their food.


Most information gathered from the Wild Dog Foundation.
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1 comment:

Jonathan said...

I really care a lot about Wild Dogs. I would love to see them in their natural habitat. Thank you so much for this wonderful post.