African Wild Dogs have some of the most intricate patterns of all animals. They are one of the most efficient and feared carnivores on the planet. Their pack displays incredible organisation that gives them a formidable ecosystem. They have no ivory to offer, and they are not one of the ‘Big Five’. So why are they so endangered?
There isn’t much in this world that can stop a pack of African Wild Dogs. Unfortunately, there is very little chance that this theory will be tested as, in modern days, there are very few truly wild packs still in existence. Most of the 5,000 ‘painted dogs’ alive today are now living in zoos and rehabilitation centres.
But how did it get to this stage?
Well, simply, man hunted these dogs to near extinction, because they knew of their hunting success and feared for their livestock.
This man has a much better relationship with his dog here in the UK
Why are they so good at hunting?
Their efficiency in hunting is down to a number of reasons. Many are related to their genetics, which have developed over the years to benefit them in many ways, including:
- Female litters can reach up to 20 pups. That’s a lot of extra hunting power!
- Their bite is extremely powerful. They have specialised molars for shearing meat and chomping through bone.
- A wild dog has well-tuned senses, particularly hearing. Their large ears, with all of their specialised muscles, can be compared to satellite dishes which can pick up even the faintest of sounds.
- With a streamlined build, and quick recovery, the carnivores are quick to attack and have impressive endurance.
However, as the famous phrase goes, ‘united we stand, divided we fall’. No one dog would be so successful. It’s all about the pack. And what an impressive ecosystem it holds.
These giraffes work together too - but only to dance
Like many other groups of animals, there is a very obvious hierarchy amongst African wild dogs. There is the alpha breeding pair, and the rest fall in line behind. This coordination may explain why a staggering 80% of their kills are successful.
The dogs how to spread out and form a barrier, catching prey within the net of their pack. Then they work together to identify the weak members. After panicking their prey, and separating out the weak member, they block out any opportunities for an escape while routinely swapping in lead dogs when they get tired to eventually wear their target down. Continuing with this display of organisation and ruthlessness, they often find great success, and their dinner.
This relaxed Orangutan would be easy prey for these formidable hunters
What’s happening now?
As farmers continue to eradicate the dogs through fear, and their habitat shrinks smaller and smaller, many of the dogs are moved into controlled areas. But organisations like the African Wildlife Foundation are working to educate local communities both about the wild dogs themselves, but also in how to better protect their livestock. At Koala Chess Art HQ, we hope this brings about a harmony for Africa and its dog.