photo taken by Bushtracks guest, Corey Goodman
For many first-time safari-goers an African wild dog sighting can be as memorable as the Big Five. Seeing the interactions of a multi-generational pack evokes hints of domestic dogs, but Lycaon pictus has a grace and wildness that is all its own. Read on for five facts from our friends at the African Wildlife Foundation, and a learn about a fascinating conservation project in Botswana.
video taken by Bushtracks Expert Safari Planner, Samantha Barbitta (Okavango Delta, Botswana)
- African wild dogs, with an estimated population of 6,600, are among the world's most endangered species, and have been endangered for 20 years.
- They weigh between 55-70 pounds, and stand 30" at the shoulder (roughly the size of a pointer). No two are marked exactly the same, making it easy to identify individuals.
- These opportunistic predators hunt a variety of animals: gazelles, other antelopes, warthogs, wildebeest calves, rats and birds at speeds ranging from 35 to 44 mph. Not surprisingly, prey rarely escapes.
- The dogs live in packs of typically six to ten animals, but some packs can be as large as 40. The entire pack -- males and females -- babysit the young and provide food.
- The largest populations can be found in southern Africa and the southern part of east Africa, especially Tanzania. Humans and habitat loss are the animals' greatest threat, but they are also vulnerable to viral diseases like rabies and distemper.
How can chemists protect wild dogs?
The Botswana Predator Conservation Trust's Bio Boundary Project in Maun, Botswana, is developing artificial chemical signals that mimic natural wild dog scent marks to keep African wild dogs safely inside the borders of protected conservation areas. Field work to sample scent markings from eight wild dog packs in the in the eastern part of Moremi Game Reserve and the chemical analyses use cutting edge methods, research strategies and data analysis. All the lab work is carried out in the Paul G Allen Family Foundation Laboratory for Wildlife Chemistry (PGAFFLWC) in Maun, the only laboratory in Africa dedicated to chemical signaling. To learn more about their fascinating work visit www.bpctrust.org/causes/bioboundary