COMMON NAME: AFRICAN WILD DOG
SWAHILI NAME: Mbwa Mwitu
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Lycaon pictus
FOOD: Carnivores (Diet based entirely on Meat)
HABITAT: Dense forest to open plains
SIZE: About 1 meter in length (30 to 43 inches)
AVERAGE LIFE SPAN IN THE NATURAL HABITAT: 10 to 12 years
ACTIVE: Early Morning (Dusk) & Late evening (Dawn)
GESTATION PERIOD: About 70 days
WEIGHT: 18 to 36 kilograms (40 to 79 pounds)
PREDATORS: Humans and lions
The African Wild Dog sometimes referred to as hunting dog or African painted dog is a rare predator in the African Wild then can be easily identified by markings of black, yellow and dark brown colours. Physically the African Wild Dog has long legs, large and round ears facing upwards complete with a white tip on the tail that is used as a flag to keep the pack in contact while hunting.
The markings on African Wild Dogs are unique to each and every wild dog meaning no two wild dogs resemble in markings.
African Wild Dogs have the highest hunting success rate than any predator in the African wild. Wild dogs exhibit extreme social behaviour even when they hunt the go in packs of over 10 wild dogs.
Being among the fastest animals, they can run for long distances which helps them to be able to stalk, chase and tire their prey across great distances until they get worn out. Hunting in a group of large numbers, their teamwork can make larger animals than their own size e.g. zebras and wildebeest!
Only about 5000 wild dogs are left in the world and this makes them very rare to spot while on safari.
Wild Dogs roam freely in the semi arid to savannah type of vegetation although they can move to woodland, scrublands and mountainous habitats in search of prey or food.
Behavior & Diet
African wild dogs are naturally social animals that live in packs made of 7 to 15 members, a number that can easily reach to 40 members and that is only because the wild dog population has decreased. It is recorded that during their peak, a single pack could reach to 100 members per pack. Every pack of wild dogs is organized with a social structure. The strong and young adults take care of the wounded and sick wild dogs. Unlike other predators and animals, there is no aggression between members of a pack nor competition for hierarchy. During hunting, every pack is led by has a dominant pair made up of an alpha male and dominant female that are strictly non-polygamous and mate for. Wild dogs have many ways of communicating with each other which include a short bark alarming times , a rallying howl, and a bell-like contact call that can be heard over long distances. Clearly made greeting rituals are accompanied by twittering and whining.
Both males and females take care of the young pups by protecting, staying with them and fetching food food for them.
Why the nursing females remain with their pups in the dens, the other wild dogs go for hunting in packs to look for food. After a successful hunt, the bring back the food to the young ones and females by regurgitating (they vomit the food to feed the pups and nursing females). Very few puppies survive due to many reasons that may include diseases, predators, and exposure even though their numbers are usually large at birth. The more the number of wild dogs in a pack the more efficient and successful they become at hunting and collecting more food for the pups. In most cases, the number of surviving pups depends on the number helpers. The more the number in a pack the higher the chances for survival
Southern Tanzania is the best place to spot the African Wild Dogs, particularly the Selous Game Reserve where you can get the perfect sightings on a regular basis. Ruaha National Park is another place in Southern Tanzania where you can spot a few packs, with very rare sightings being reported at Mikumi national park.
Although these Southern Tanzania destinations have larger populations of African Wild Dogs as compared to the other national parks in the north of Tanzania, there is a small and rarely seen population of Wild Dogs in Tarangire national parks and Serengeti National park.
Laikipia national park specifically Kicheche Laikipia in Ol Pejeta and at Laikipia Wilderness Camp is perhaps the only and best place to see the African Wild Dogs in Kenya where they might roam to the nearby Meru national Park (Kenya)