One of the highlights of our upcoming Botswana Wildlife Tour will be the opportunity to find and spend time with the endangered African Wild Dog. Wild Dogs, aka Hunting Dogs or Painted Wolves, are amongst the rarest of the large carnivores in Africa. While rare and elusive, once found, they offer arguably some of the most exciting wildlife watching experiences. They are highly social, largely diurnal and very active!
Until recently, African Wild Dogs ranged widely through much of Africa. They have undergone a devastating reduction in range and numbers and are now confined to a few wilderness areas and game reserves, from Chad in the north to South Africa in the south. According to the IUCN, which treats the African Wild Dog as Endangered, the main reasons for the recent demise of the African Wild Dog are habitat fragmentation, conflict with humans and infectious disease. There are now thought to be only 660 packs of Wild Dog left, with viable populations in only eight countries.
African Wild Dogs have an extraordinary social structure. They live in packs of 2-40 animals which are dominated by an alpha male and an alpha female. The alpha male and female form a monogamous pair and are usually the only pair of the pack to breed, producing a litter of 2-21 pups. The entire pack cares for the pups and brings meat to the den. Wild Dogs care not only for their own pups but also for the weak and sick adults in their own group, a fairly rare example of this type of cooperative behavior. While this high degree of sociability generally serves them well, it is also part of the reason for their recent decline. Through contact with domestic dogs, rabies or canine distemper can quickly decimate a pack of such highly social animals.
These animals are extraordinarily active with home ranges of up to 3,000 km2. The pack hunts cooperatively and efficiently reaching speeds of nearly 50 mph during a hunt. Their main prey tend to be medium-sized antelope such as Impala and Wildebeest, although they are known to take everything from lizards to Buffalo. Wild Dogs are well known for the efficiency at which they hunt and devour a carcass. Once they have singled out their target, it has little chance and will be devoured in minutes!
Habitat fragmentation is the number one reason for the decline of the African Wild Dog. Botswana’s vast untouched wilderness provides one of the last refuges for Wild Dogs and comprises part of the core of their range. Our upcoming Botswana Wildlife Tour will be visiting some of the best areas to find and observe these exciting animals and we are hoping for some thrilling encounters!
For more information please visit: https://www.rockjumperwildlife.com/wildlife-tours/tours/best-of-botswana-victoria-falls-wildlife-safari
And for a thrilling video of a Wild Dog kill that was recently filmed near the fabulous Zebra Hills Lodge. Thanks to Marsha Steffen for this incredible video!