Wild dogs or painted wolves are South Africa’s most endangered large carnivore. These glorious canines are sadly a rarity for a number of reasons. The demise in individuals in recent history can be attributed to humans among other things.
Wild dogs are the ultimate apex land predator. Their kill rate per chase is 85%. In comparison to South Africa’s big cats like the lion (25%), leopard (30-40%) and cheetah (40-50%), these dogs are unmatched.
Their success can be attested to their gruesome hunting strategy. Wild dogs live in packs with a dominant, monogamous breeding pair.
The pair will breed and the pups will be cared for by the entire pack. Wild dogs are social animals and will protect their young and weak.
The pack will hunt together and spare no mercy for their prey. Once they have caught their target, the dogs will begin to feast: while the animal is still alive. Unlike big cats, who will usually kill their prey thorough asphyxiation or other means, before chomping down.
In Africa, there is an estimated 3000 – 5000 individuals remaining, according to Endangered Wildlife Trust. In the Kruger National Park there are about 450-500 individuals.
The sad reality of the painted wolves is that they are endangered because of humans. Human-wildlife conflict as a result of encroaching on the dogs’ natural habitat has seen an increase in killing at the hands of farmers in an effort to protect their livestock.
Habitat fragmentation is another reason why their population is dwindling. When these animals are not denning, their territories can range between 400 and 1,500 square kilometres, otherwise they stay put in one place.
Painted wolves can also travel 50km in a day and so, with habitat fragmentation and accidentally roaming onto a farm, the population is suffering.
Another threat to their survival, not at the hands of humans, is their susceptibility to disease. Wild dogs are greatly affected by canine distemper and rabies.
Seeing a pack of wild dogs in their natural environment a life changing experience that compares to nothing else.