African Wild Dogs: The Lives And Loss Of The Painted Wolves

1163 words - 5 pages

African Wild Dogs, or Lycaon pictus, are indigenous to many parts of sub-Saharan Africa. They, along with wolves and domesticated dogs, are classified in the kingdom Animalia, phylum Chordata, class Mammalia, order Carnivora, and family Canidae, so all three species share many similar characteristics (Woodroffe & Sillero-Zubiri, 2012). Lycaon pictus translates to “painted wolf,” referring to the unique brown, gold, black, and white mottling of their coats which allows recognition of individuals. They are 29.5 to 43 inches in height (approximately the size of a Great Dane), but their large rounded ears and lack of a fifth toe set them apart from their domesticated counterparts (African wild dog (lycaon pictus), 2014).
African Wild Dogs are characteristically gregarious, living in packs of 6 to 20 headed by an alpha pair that breeds and gives birth to a litter of 2 to 20 pups yearly. Except in unusually large packs, no other members are reproductive, but several are capable of becoming reproductive upon the death of an alpha (Woodroffe & Sillero-Zubiri, 2012). The young are raised by the whole pack, whose members take turns hunting to provide for the alphas and pups and staying behind to guard them. The species is notable for its collectivistic attitude toward pack life—members share resources and aid the weak rather let a member or orphan suffer (African wild dog (lycaon pictus), 2014). The dogs communicate through a variety of vocalizations, which include a hoot to locate lost pack members and a twitter to rouse members to a hunt twice daily—at dawn and at dusk (What’s wild about African Wild Dogs, 2014). They are generalists, preying on large and small animals but preferring prey weighing between 10 and 120 kilograms. A study by Hayward, O’Brien, Hofmeyr, and Kerley revealed that Greater Kudu, Thompson’s gazelle, impala, and bushbuck are all preferred prey of African Wild Dogs wherever they coexist in significant numbers (2006).
Because African Wild Dogs require more meat relative to their size than any other carnivore, hunting success is vitally important (Hayward, O’Brien, Hofmeyr, & Kerley, 2006). Vast areas of land are required to support regular hunting, so the dogs inhabit a variety of biome types including semi-desert, short-grass plains, upland forests, and bushy savannas in isolated communities found across sub-Saharan Africa, namely in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Zambia, Tanzania, Chad, Kenya, and the Central African Republic. This demonstrates the African Wild Dog’s ability to thrive in a variety of climates and terrains, and though the densest concentrations of dog populations are currently found in thick bush, human interference and prey availability are most likely responsible for this apparent habitat preference (Woodroffe & Sillero-Zubiri, 2012).
Despite their flexibility in diet and habitat, African Wild Dogs face an increasing number of threats. Predation by lions is a natural and once manageable threat that has...

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