CategoryWild Dogs

5 Best Places to See African Wild Dogs

Wild dogs are Africa’s rarest carnivore with only 4 toes on each foot. They are also called Cape hunting dog, painted dog or painted wolf.  Wild dogs are very sociable creatures and live in very strongly bonded packs but have the distinction of a complete lack of aggression towards other members of the pack. The average wild dog pack consists of 5 to 8 adults with their offspring. The packs work well together and rarely display signs of aggression within the pack. They allow their young and sick dogs to eat first. It has been observed that each wild dog has a unique coat pattern.

The elusive wild dogs are highly energetic creatures who are almost invariably on alert. They are built for speed reaching a velocity of up to 60 kilometers per hour. However, Wild Dogs are among Africa’s most endangered mammal species. In fact, they are the most critically endangered predator with a total remaining population estimated to be less than 7 000. The wild dogs have been hunted and affected by the disease. Their main predators are the lion and the scavenging spotted hyena. Their preferred habitats are savannas and arid areas. They can also be found in woodland and mountainous habitats where their prey like antelopes live. Here are the best places to see the African Wild Dogs:


Selous Game Reserve

The Selous Game Reserve is one of the largest faunal reserves in the world, located in the south of Tanzania. The reserve is a mixture of canopy forests, grassy plains, swamps, wetlands and woodlands, and a series of 5 interconnected lakes filled by the great Rufiji River. in 1982, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the diversity of its wildlife and undisturbed nature. African bush elephants, black rhinos, hippopotamus, lions, Cape buffaloes, Masai giraffes, Plains zebras, crocodiles and the East African wild dogs are found in the reserve. The reserve is home to approximately 1,300 wild dogs who compete for food with other predators such as lion, cheetah, leopard and spotted hyena. The Selous has the largest concentration of Wild Dogs in Africa and about one-third of the entire world’s population. 

Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa which covers nearly 2 million hectares of protected areas. To the west and south of the Kruger National Park are the two South African provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga. In the north is Zimbabwe, and to the east is Mozambique. The Kruger National Park is the flagship of the country’s national parks and is known for its ultimate safari experience. Kruger supports packs of the endangered African wild dog, of which there are thought to be only about 400 in the whole of South Africa. It is also home to Africa’s big five and a whole lot other wildlife animals.

Masai Mara National Reserve

Masai Mara is a large game reserve in Narok County, Kenya. This National Reserve is famous for its exceptional population of Masai lions, African leopards and Kenyan cheetahs, and the annual migration of zebra, Thomson’s gazelle, and wildebeest. Masai Mara is also a place to see the elusive African Wild Dogs. The wild dogs disappeared entirely from the Masai Mara in the early 1990’s and were presumed to be extinct. However, they started showing up again on Masaai lands ten years later. The genetic testing revealed that these dogs were from the same population as those that vanished from the park years before. A sighting of Wild Dogs is considered a very special and exciting experience in Masai Mara. 

Selinda Game Reserve

The Selinda Reserve is a 320,000-acre private wildlife sanctuary in the Northern Botswana and is one of Africa’s great wildlife reserves. The Selinda Spillway area of the reserve is home to some of southern Africa’s biggest elephant and buffalo herds. Abundant wildlife is attracted to the vast floodplains and grasslands along the river. It’s also a stronghold of the endangered wild dog.

Hwange National Park

The Hwange National Park is the largest natural reserve in Zimbabwe. The national park is home to over 100 mammal species, including lion, leopard, and rhino. Hwange is also known for its large population of elephant and the Wild dogs. The population of the wild dogs in Hwange is thought to be of one of the larger surviving groups in Africa today, along with that of Kruger National Park and Selous Game Reserve.

The African Wild Dog And Kruger Park Camps

The African wild dog has been considered an endangered-species, and only 4 populations remain in Africa. One of these populations is based in the Kruger National Park. The survival of the wild dog depends on the strength of a specific pack as the chances of a lone wild dog  is not a great as it is difficult for them to catch prey or evade other predators. However when in a pack the dogs work together extremely well and become fierce predators.

The African wild dog has the highest structured social-order when compared to all the carnivores. They live in a pack that will be led by a dominant female and male. All the other members in a pack play subordinate roles to their alpha pair.

The wild dog will usually stay away from areas that are dominated by hyena and lion.

In the Kruger Park there are approximately 450 to 500 dogs and to see some of them is considered very fortunate. They tend to roam over long distances and can travel up to around 50km in just one day when they are in search of food. These dogs can typically be viewed in the Moremi, Chobe and a few in Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

Wild dogs are highly experienced in what is known as a collective approach when it comes to hunting. Their hunting usually begins at sunrise or a sunset when these animals perform a greeting ceremony where they lick and sniff each other, wag their tails and make strange twittering sounds.

The African wild dog uses a number of chattering-sounds and uses a long-distance distinctive greeting call that sounds like a sharp “Hoo”. This particular sound can be heard as far as 4 kilometers away. However, when they are in hunting mode they remain silent and on some occasions will hunt when there is a full-moon. The Wild dogs generally fan through bush in order to locate antelope herds, but in most cases they find impala herds. Once they find a herd, they target a vulnerable member such as a young buck or a female.

One of the subordinate males of the pack will begin the hunt in an attempt to isolate the prey from its herd. Once the targeted animal is separated and identified, the alpha-male of the wild dog pack will lead the hunt and the race of endurance begins.

These animals are known as high-stamina hunters that are able to maintain 40 kilometer per hour pace over a span of five kilometers and they can increase this speed to 60 kilometers an hour in short bursts. The pack will split up during their hunt and some of the dogs will try to force the prey into a circle toward the other dogs.

If this tactic fails they carry on with firm determination, while each dog will take a turn to increase their pace. They begin to tear and nip at the victim every time the animal slows down. They basically run their prey to the point of exhaustion. When the prey finally collapses, these dogs begin to feed immediately well before the prey dies from blood loss.

Unlike the hyenas that feasts chaotically and noisily, the wild dogs behave in a restrained as well as orderly manner at a kill. The younger dogs are allowed to feed first, that is then followed by the “subordinate” females and males, and the alpha pair will feed at any-time. Every dog will wait for their turn. If there is not enough to feed the entire pack, the hunt will immediately begin again.

The subordinate females perform the role of supporting nursing females that remain behind in their den. These females will overeat when they feed and then go directly back to their den in order to regurgitate the food so that the young and the mother are able to eat.

The litter size for wild dogs is usually between 4 to 8 puppies. They are allowed to suckle for a period of 3 months before they are taught the art of hunting. The wild dogs will hunt every single day due to the fact they require more food. The main part of their diet includes impalas. However, they will attack the bigger game that includes zebra, reedbuck, waterbuck, kudu and wildebeest.

Looking at The African Wild Dog

They say every dog has his day, but that’s definitely a bigger challenge on the continent of Africa, where big cats rule a good portion of the upper food chain. Sometimes referred to as African hunting dogs or African painted dogs, these wild dogs are considered endangered and although found through parts of sub-Saharan Africa, they are not found through nearly as much of their original habitat as they used to be.

A Truly Unique Type Of Dog

There are five sub-species of the African Wild Dog and they are from the genus Lycaon as opposed to the Canis genus that most people are more familiar with when it comes to dogs and the canine family. These are highly social types of dogs and they often travel in large packs – which is also a great benefit to survival in such a harsh wild continent.

The average pack size will be four to five dogs, sometimes with many young puppies abounding, but there have been packs that were up to a full 25 or more adults dogs in total.

These dogs are considered specialized predators on the African continent and they tend to feed on medium and small sized antelopes. While these are the preferred food for a pack, which hunts much in the same way a wolf pack does, they will take on other medium sized prey when hunger and the need to feed the pack arises. Rodents, rabbits/hares, and birds can all become the next meal, and even more dangerous prey like warthogs, cane rats, and porcupines are all on the menu if the dogs are hungry enough and there isn’t much else in the area.

Endangered Species

There have been massive declines in the population of African wild dogs. Some of the normal factors are at work here such as human persecution through hunting and trapping and a shrinking habitat. This is compounded by the fact that the growth of cities and the Saharan desert has led to the habitat being fragmented, isolating populations in smaller and smaller areas where food and free range continue to contract.

However, in some areas the natural population seemed to hit a tipping point where normal predators outnumber them enough to become a larger problem than they would be in a balanced ecosystem. With diminishing populations and being cut off from larger habitats, one of their few natural predators, lions, can put a serious dent in the local population of wild dogs – and each loss of a member makes the rest of the pack just that much more vulnerable.

Hyenas can also be a huge issue, not because they attack packs of dogs that often, but more because they can overpower small packs and steal any prey they’ve managed to kill. This combination in an area of lions and hyenas can be devastating on low wild dog populations.

In addition to all this, a few major disease outbreaks have been especially harmful to the local populations of African wild dogs, further weakening the healthy packs and animals that are alive.

Scattered Populations

These animals are found scattered throughout Africa, although in certain areas like Botswana there are enough of them protected in parks to give some encouragement to their future in that specific area. While more work needs to be done to protect them, efforts are being made by a number of nations to protect the limited populations they have there.

In Conclusion

You have to be strong as an animal if you’re going to survive your place in the food chain on a continent like Africa, and packs of African wild dogs certainly have a lot to compete with. While dogs might be above cats in most ecosystems, that definitely isn’t going to fly throughout most of Africa where a variety of big cats, including prides of lions, are going to be much higher up on the food chain.

That being said, these wild dogs have been resilient and while they seem in a very tenuous position in many places, in others they have the numbers, the habitat, and the protection to possibly make a comeback and thrive. This is an incredibly interesting animal, and it deserves a long healthy future on the plains of Africa.

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