Animal Info - Wild Dog

(Other Names: African Hunting Dog, African Wild Dog, Apeete, Aye Dur, Cape Hunting Dog, Cynhyene, Eeyeyi, Eminze, Imbwa, Inpumpi, Kikwau, Kite Kya Negereni, Kulwe, Licaon, Liduma, Ligwami, Loup-peint, Lycaon, Mauzi, Mbawa, Mbwa Mwitu, Mbughi, Mhuge, Mulula, Muthige, Nzui, Omusege, Osuyiani, Oulay, Painted Dog, Prude, Sudhe, Suyian, Suyo, Suyondet, Takula, Tri-colored Dog, Wildehond, Yeyii)

Lycaon pictus

Status: Endangered


Contents

1. Profile (Picture)
2. Tidbits
3. Status and Trends (IUCN Status, Countries Where Currently Found, Population Estimates, History of Distribution, Threats and Reasons for Decline)
4. Data on Biology and Ecology (Weight, Habitat, Age to Maturity, Gestation Period, Birth Season, Birth Rate, Early Development, Dispersal, Maximum Age, Diet, Behavior, Social Organization, Age and Gender Distribution, Mortality and Survival, Density and Range)
5. References


Profile

Pictures: Wild Dog #1 (11 Kb JPEG) (Naturalia 2000); Wild Dog #2 (27 Kb JPEG); Wild Dog #3 (35 Kb JPEG)

The wild dog weighs between 17 - 36 kg (37 - 79 lb). It is generally found in plains and open woodland, although it has been found in a variety of other habitats from the Sahara Desert up into the lower forests of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Most prey species weigh between 20 - 90 kg (44 - 200 lb), but animals as small as cane rats and as large as greater kudu have been reported in the diet. The dominant prey species varies according to the most abundant prey species in the area. Dominant prey species in various areas include Thomson's gazelle, wildebeest, impala, duiker and reedbuck.

For most of the year, wild dogs roam around over the plains and in the bush, usually not staying in the same place for more than a day. Hunts take place in the morning and early evening. Prey is apparently located by sight, approached silently, and then pursued at speeds of up to 66 km/hr (41 mph) for up to one hour. Pack members generally cooperate in hunting large mammals, but individuals sometimes pursue hares, rodents, or other small animals. The daytime is spent sleeping, usually in the shade of a tree or near water, with members of the pack lying very close together. Once a year the pack occupies a den for 2 - 3 months, to bear young. The den is usually an abandoned aardvark hole.

Wild dogs are social, communally hunting carnivores, which live in small cohesive packs typically composed of a dominant breeding pair, a number of non-breeding adults, and their dependent offspring. Within the wild dog pack all the males are related to each other, and all of the females to each other but not to the males. Females migrate into the pack, whereas males usually stay with their natal pack. Only the highest-ranking male and female normally breed, and they inhibit reproduction by subordinates. Pack size ranges from 2 - 43, with the average number usually between 8 - 11.

The wild dog was formerly found over almost all of Africa, including parts of the Sahara. It was probably once found in every habitat except rain forest and some desert areas. However, there has been a major decline in numbers in historical times, although it still occurs over much of its original range. Most are in southern and eastern Africa; only small remnant populations remain in West and central Africa. Remaining populations are fragmented and concentrated in protected areas. The major causes of decline have been its mostly undeserved reputation as an indiscriminate killer of game and livestock, which has led to severe persecution, and the loss of its habitat as human populations have expanded.


Tidbits

*** "The most striking aspect of wild dog society is the amity that exists between members. Even when the whole pack is crowded around a kill there is little overt strife.

"...all pack members contribute to feeding and protection of the young...

"Once pups accompany the adults on the hunt,... they take almost complete precedence at a kill. Adults may grab a bite at the time the prey has been caught, but as soon as the pups arrive the adults step back and permit them to monopolize the carcass." (Schaller 1972)

*** The wild dog suffers from a negative public image. Consider the portrayal of the wild dog and the lion by two authors quoted in Fanshawe et al. 1991:

Lion: "In appearance the lion of the Zambesi valley is a splendid and most majestic creature."

Wild Dog: "Let us consider for a moment that abomination - that blot upon the many interesting wild things - the murderous Wild Dog. It will be an excellent day for African game and its preservation when means can be devised for its complete extermination."

Quoted from Maugham 1914

Lion: "I saw him - a big male lion with black-tipped mane and tail, a kingly creature of habit on his morning stroll, cleaving the tawny savanna."

Wild Dog: "In the shade of the tailgate lay one sullen dog, yellow-eyed, mud-colored, thick-footed, head on its forepaws - an eerie embodiment of the hound of hell."

Quoted from Alexander 1986

*** Few data are available on the economic damage caused by wild dogs, but losses appear to be related to livestock husbandry. In Maasai areas in Kenya, where livestock are accompanied by herders by day and kept in enclosures at night, wild dogs ignore livestock and no losses are reported. In contrast, wild dogs do occasionally take calves on ranches in Zimbabwe, where cattle are not protected by herders. As in other canids, depredation may be low overall, but a few farms tend to suffer disproportionately and, very occasionally, local losses can be severe. (Woodroffe & Ginsberg 1999)


Status and Trends

IUCN Status:

Countries Where the Wild Dog Is Currently Found:

2004: Occurs in Botswana, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. May have become extinct in Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Togo, and Uganda. (IUCN 2004)

Population Estimates:

[Note: Figures given are for wild populations only.]

History of Distribution:

The wild dog was formerly found in suitable habitats over almost all of Africa, including parts of the Sahara. It was probably once found in every habitat except lowland rainforest and the driest deserts. However, wild dogs have disappeared from much of their former range. The species is virtually eradicated from West Africa, and greatly reduced in central Africa and northeast Africa. The largest populations remain in southern Africa and the southern part of East Africa. Wild dogs are rarely seen, even where they are relatively common, and it appears that populations have always existed at very low densities.

Distribution Map (17 Kb GIF) (African Mammals Databank 2004)
Distribution Map (2 Kb GIF) (Lioncrusher)

Threats and Reasons for Decline:

Population size is continuing to decline as a result of ongoing conflict with human activities, infectious disease, and habitat fragmentation. The most severe threat to the wild dog has been its mostly undeserved reputation as a voracious and indiscriminate killer of game and livestock, which has led to its persecution. In most of Africa, wild dogs are shot or poisoned whenever they are encountered (Woodroffe & Ginsberg 1999). Another severe threat has arisen more recently: the wild dog's habitat has been shrinking as human populations expand. This leads the wild dog into increased contact with humans, their domestic animals and the diseases they carry; and an increasing number of roads bisecting its habitat threaten the wild dog with greater mortality from vehicles. The wild dog appears to be susceptible to many diseases, particularly canine distemper (introduced into East Africa in 1906), rabies and anthrax.

Interspecific competition and predation from lions and hyenas contribute to keeping the overall densities of wild dogs low (Creel & Creel 1998, Mills & Gorman 1997).


Data on Biology and Ecology

Weight:

The wild dog weighs 17 - 36 kg (37 - 79 lb) (male & female); average: 25 kg (55 lb).

Habitat:

Historical data indicate that wild dogs were formerly distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa, from desert to mountain summits, including wetlands and moderately dense bush, and they probably were absent only from lowland rainforest and the driest desert. Currently, the wild dog is found in short-grass plains, semi-desert, bushy savannahs, upland forest and open woodland.

The wild dog lives in both the Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa, Eastern Afromontane, Horn of Africa, and Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany Biodiversity Hotspots (Cons. Intl. 2005) as well as the East African Acacia Savannas and the Zambezian Flooded Savannas Global 200 Ecoregions. (Olson & Dinerstein 1998, Olson & Dinerstein 1999)

Age to Maturity:

Young wild dogs are adult at about 1 year (Kingdon 1997).

Social restrictions blur the actual time of sexual maturity. Five males were observed to first mate at 1.75, 2.75, 3, 3, and 5 years. The youngest female to give birth was 22 months old at the time (Nowak & Paradiso 1983).

Sexual maturity is attained between 12 - 18 months (Macdonald 1984).

Gestation Period:

60 - 80 days.

Birth Season:

Any time of year, with a peak between March - June during the second half of the rainy season.

Birth Rate:

2 - 19 pups per litter, with an average of about 10. The time between births is usually 12 - 14 months, but it can be as short as 6 months if all of the young die.

Early Development:

Pups are born in a den, usually one dug by an aardvark. Weaning takes place at about 10 weeks. After 3 months, the den is abandoned and the pups begin to run with the pack. At 8 - 11 months they can kill easy prey, but they are not proficient until about 12 - 14 months, at which time they can fend for themselves.

Dispersal:

Females between 14 - 30 months old leave the pack in which they were born in groups of sisters born in the same litter and join another pack that lacks sexually mature females. Most males do not disperse from the pack they were born in.

Maximum Age:

At least 11 years.

Diet:

Wild dogs mostly hunt medium-sized antelope, with the preferred species varying   according to the most abundant prey species in the area. The proportions of prey taken by wild dogs in various study sites across Africa include (Woodroffe et al. 1997):

  • Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe: impala (60%), kudu (30%), reedbuck (2%).
  • Kruger National Park, South Africa: impala (52%), kudu (12%), reedbuck (15%).
  • Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya: Thompson's gazelle (67%), impala (17%), wildebeest (8%).
  • Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana: impala (85%), kudu, lechwe; Namibia: reedbuck, wildebeest, roan, duiker.
  • Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania: impala (69%), wildebeest (11%) reedbuck (3%), warthog (3%).
  • Serengeti National Park, Tanzania: Thompson's gazelle (57%), wildebeest (40%), Grant's gazelle, zebra .
  • Zambia: impala, reedbuck, hartebeest, oribi.

Dominant species include (percentage of kills) (Schaller 1972):

  • Kafue National Park (Zambia) - duiker (26%), reedbuck (25%)
  • Kruger National Park (South Africa) - impala (87%) (total of 20 species)
  • Serengeti (Tanzania) - Thomson's gazelle (42%), wildebeest (38%) (total of 12 species)

Most prey species weigh between 20 - 90 kg (44 - 200 lb), but animals as small as cane rats (5 kg (11 lb)) and as large as greater kudu (about 310 kg (680 lb)) have been reported in the diet (Macdonald 1984).

Calculating a single consumption rate per ecosystem yields 2.0 - 2.5 kg/dog/day (4.4 - 5.5 lb/dog/day) in Selous, 2.3 kg/dog/day (5.1 lb/dog/day) in Serengeti, 3.5 kg/dog/day (7.7 lb/dog/day) in Kruger, and 4.7 kg/dog/day (10.3 lb/dog/day) in Aitong (Creel & Creel 1998).

Wild dogs also readily scavenge meat.

Behavior:

For most of the year, wild dogs roam around over the plains and in the bush, usually not staying in the same place for more than a day. Movements are generally correlated with hunting success. If prey is scarce, the pack may traverse its entire home range in 2 - 3 days, covering up to 50 km (31 mi) per day. Wild dogs are specialized pack hunters. Hunts take place in the morning and early evening. Prey is apparently located by sight, approached silently, and then pursued at speeds of up to 66 km/hr (41 mph) for up to 1 hour. Hunting success rates of 43 - 70% have been observed. Pack members generally cooperate in hunting large mammals, but individuals sometimes pursue hares, rodents, or other small animals. The daytime is spent asleep, usually in the shade of a tree or near water, with members of the pack lying very close together.

A pack has a home base only once a year, to bear young. The pack occupies a den, usually an abandoned aardvark hole, for 2 - 3 months. When pups are present, pack members do not wander very far from the den.

Social Organization:

Wild dogs are social, communally hunting carnivores, which live in small cohesive packs typically composed of a dominant breeding pair, a number of non-breeding adults, and their dependent offspring. The social arrangements of African wild dogs are extraordinary because they are the exact opposite of those in most other social mammals, such as coatis, baboons, lions and elephants (Macdonald 1984). Within the wild dog pack all the males are related to each other, and all of the females to each other but not to the males. Females migrate into the pack, whereas males usually stay with their natal pack. There are separate dominance hierarchies for each sex. Only the highest-ranking male and female normally breed, and they inhibit reproduction by subordinates.

New packs are formed when small sub-groups of the same sex (usually siblings) leave their natal groups and join up with other sub-groups of the opposite sex.  Thus, in new packs the females are closely related to one another, but not to the males, and the males are closely related to one another, but not to the females. (Woodroffe et al. 1997)

Food is shared, even by individuals that do not participate in the kill. In competition for a bone or in other situations in which a fight could erupt, both animals tend to assume the appeasement posture, thereby terminating the interaction. Pups old enough to take solid food are given first priority at kills, eating even before the dominant pair.

Pack size ranges from 2 - 43. Most studies indicate that the average number of adults and yearlings in a pack ranges from 8 - 11, although averages from 7 - 15 have been observed (Kruuk & Turner 1967, Schaller 1972, Ginsberg & Macdonald 1990, Fanshawe et al. 1991)

The ranges of different packs overlap extensively. If packs meet, the larger group usually chases away the smaller.

Age and Gender Distribution:

Male/Female Ratio:

  • Skewed towards males at birth (59% males in one study).
  • Of 327 dogs over 6 months old, 58% were males and 42% females (Schaller 1972).
  • In the adult population of the Serengeti, males outnumber females by a ratio of 2:1 (Fanshawe et al. 1991).

Pack Composition (adults/yearlings/pups) (Woodroffe et al. 1997):

  • Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe: 5 packs: 7.8 adults/3.2 yearlings/5.4 pups.
  • Kruger National Park, South Africa: 8 packs: 4.8/2.1/5.8.
  • Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya: 6 packs: 4.2/4.0/8.8.
  • Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana: 8 packs: 4.3/2.5/8.3.
  • Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania: 6 packs: 7.7/4.3/6.3.
  • Serengeti National Park, Tanzania: 7 packs: 6.6/6.0/11.2.

Mortality and Survival:

Causes of adult mortality recorded in wild dog populations in Kruger National Park, South Africa; Moremi Game Reserve and surrounding areas, Botswana; Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe; Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania; and various parts of Zambia (mostly Kafue National Park) [See reference for data on individual locations] (Woodroffe & Ginsberg 1999):

  • Natural causes (39%): Lion predation - 12%, hyena predation - 4%, other predation - 5%, other wild dogs - 5%, disease - 8%, accident - 6%
  • Human causes (61%): Road kill - 24%, snared - 10 %, shot - 15%, poisoned - 12%, other - 1%

Causes of pup mortality recorded in wild dog populations in Kruger National Park, South Africa; Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe; and Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania  [See reference for data on individual locations] (Woodroffe & Ginsberg 1999):

  • Natural causes (80%): Lion predation - 31%, hyena predation - 6%, other wild dogs - 34%, disease - 8%
  • Human causes (20%): Road kill - 12%, snared - 8 %

Density and Range:

Density:

  • Population density (adults per 100 sq km/adults per 100 sq mi): Aitong, near Masai Mara, Kenya: 2.6 - 4.6/6.8 - 12; Kruger National Park, South Africa: 2.0/5.2 (Woodroffe et al. 1997).
  • Densities of wild dogs (adults per 100 sq km/adults per 100 sq mi): Selous (Tanzania) - 4/10; Serengeti (Tanzania) - 1.5/3.9 (1967 - 1979), 0.67/1.7 (1985 - 1991); Kruger (South Africa) - 1.7/4.4; Hluhluwe (South Africa) - 3.3/8.6; Hwange (Zimbabwe) - 1.5/3.9; Moremi (Botswana) - 4.0/10 (Creel & Creel 1996).
  • Population density on the Serengeti plains over 13 years averaged 0.48 adults/100 sq km (1.3 adults/100 sq mi). Density in woodland areas is typically 3 - 9 times higher (e.g. 4.0 adults/100 sq km (10 adults/100 sq mi) in Selous Game Reserve (Creel et al. 1997).
  • Densities as low as one pack per 2000 sq km (770 sq mi) are not uncommon (Macdonald 1984).
  • From 1970 - 1977, population density in the Serengeti declined from 3 adults/100 sq km (8 adults/100 sq mi) to 0.5 adults/100 sq km (1.3 adults/100 sq mi) (Nowak & Paradiso 1983).

Home Range:

  • Home range sizes at various study sites (Woodroffe et al. 1997):
    • Aitong, near Masai Mara, Kenya: n=1 pack: 659 sq km (253 sq mi).
    • Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe: n=4: 423 sq km (range 260-633 sq km) (163 sq mi (range 100-243 sq mi)).
    • Kruger National Park, South Africa: n=20: 553 sq km (range 150-1110 sq km) (213 sq mi (range 58-427 sq mi)).
    • Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana: n=9: 617 sq km (range 375-1050 sq km) (237 sq mi (range 144-404 sq mi)).
    • Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania: n=6: 438 sq km (range 620-2460 sq km)[sic] (168 sq mi (range 238-946 sq mi)).
    • Serengeti National Park, Tanzania: n=5: 1318 sq km (range 620-2460 sq km) (507 sq mi (range 238-946 sq mi)).
  • Packs use smaller areas when they are feeding pups at a den; for example, in Serengeti, home ranges were 50 - 260 sq km (19 - 100 sq mi) during denning, but 1500 - 2000 sq km (580 - 770 sq mi) at other times (Woodroffe & Ginsberg 1999).
  • Pack home range varies considerably, ranging from 500 sq km (190 sq mi) up to 1500 sq km (580 sq mi). Pack home range overlap varies from 50% to 80% (Ginsberg & Macdonald 1990).
  • Pack home range in the Serengeti is generally 1500 - 2000 sq km (580 - 770 sq mi). A pack in South Africa reportedly used a home range of about 3900 sq km (1500 sq mi) (Nowak & Paradiso 1983).

Hunting Range:

  • Hunting ranges for brief periods (3 weeks; 2.5 months) of 2 packs in the Serengeti (Tanzania) equaled 210 sq km (81 sq mi) and 160 sq km (62 sq mi) respectively (Schaller 1972).

References

African Mammals Databank 2004, Anon. 1995, Arkive, Burton & Pearson 1987, Cons. Intl. 2005, Creel & Creel 1996, Creel & Creel 1998, Creel et al. 1997, Fanshawe et al. 1991, Ginsberg & Macdonald 1990, IUCN 1994, IUCN 1996, IUCN 2000, IUCN 2003a, IUCN 2004, Kingdon 1997, Kruuk & Turner 1967, Lioncrusher, Macdonald 1984, Mills & Gorman 1997, Naturalia 2000, Nowak & Paradiso 1983, Olson & Dinerstein 1998, Olson & Dinerstein 1999, Oryx 1986h, Oryx 1995b, Oryx 1997h, Schaller 1972, Sillero 2001, Stuart & Stuart 1996, Woodroffe 1998, Woodroffe & Ginsberg 1999, Woodroffe et al. 1997


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