African Wild Dog

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Lifestyle

African wild dogs spend their whole lives in a close-knit pack that averages around 10 members. A pack consists mostly of related males, and fewer adult females. The alpha male and female of each pack are usually the only members that breed. Group interactions include elaborate “greeting ceremonies” with leaping, face licking, tail wagging, and squealing.

Food

Carnivores, African wild dogs will eat a variety of antelope, including duiker, reedbuck, and impala, as well as Thomson’s gazelle, wildebeest, and the occasional zebra. To bring down their prey, they hunt in packs. During mornings and early evenings, the pack searches for food within its home range—an area of up to 900 sq. miles. Unlike some other carnivores, African wild dogs feed peacefully after a hunt and all members share in the feast.

Life Cycle

Raising the pups of the dominant breeding pair and caring for old or sick individuals in an African wild dog pack is a group task. Litters typically include 6 to 12 pups, but can number up to 18. Pups are born from March to June—the second half of the rainy season. The tiny, helpless newborns open their eyes after 13 days and are weaned by 11 weeks. After a year, the juveniles are proficient hunters, and at two years of age, they are sexually mature. Females leave the pack soon afterward, but males could remain with their group for the rest of their lives. Wild dogs live about 11 years.

Some of My Neighbors

Lions, Leopards, Spotted Hyenas, Cheetahs, Elephants, Black Rhinoceros, Grevy’s Zebras, Buffalo, Coke’s Hartebeests

Population Status & Threats

Only an estimated 3,000–6,000 African wild dogs remain in the wild. They have been removed from 90% of their former range. The main threats result from human impacts on the landscape. Development has caused habitat fragmentation; contact with human settlements and domestic dogs can result in disease transmission; and lack of prey can cause conflicts with farmers over livestock.

WCS Conservation Efforts

The Wildlife Conservation Society is working in Kenya and Tanzania to conserve African wild dogs and their remaining habitats. Our scientists study the species’ requirements and work with local communities and authorities to zone lands that accommodate wild dogs’ home ranges and prevent encounters with livestock. WCS conservationists are also drawing plans for an ecotourism program featuring African wild dogs, which would create a community-based incentive for the conservation of these charismatic canids.

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