Tuesday, November 1, 2011

African Wild Dogs

Also commonly known as painted dogs, painted wolves or cape hunting dogs, African wild dogs are canids native to southern and central Africa. They are currently listed as endangered due to habitat loss and overhunting.
Each African wild dog has its own distinct pattern of coloration. It is for this reason that the animal’s Latin name literally means “painted wolf”. Adults usually weigh between 40 and 80lbs and stand about 30 inches high at the shoulders. Besides its coloration, the African wild dog’s most distinctive features are its large round ears and the fact that it is the only canid species to lack dewclaws on its forelimbs.

As with many canids, African wild dogs are extremely social animals and live in packs. Packs can vary in size from 2 to 27 individuals and usually consist of a dominant male and female and their subordinates. Within a pack, dogs of the same sex are usually closely related to each other but not to any dogs of the opposite sex.
In most packs only the dominant male and female are allowed to mate, and after a 70 day gestation will give birth to a litter of 2-20 pups, the largest average litter of any canid. Raising the pups is largely a community affair, with all pack members taking turns guarding, caring for and regurgitating food from hunts to feed the pups. The pups will reach sexual maturity after about a year, at which point the females from the litter will leave the pack to find one in which they are unrelated to sexually mature males; the males from the litter will likely stay with their original pack for life.

As they are pack hunters, African wild dogs usually work together to take prey much larger than they. Ungulates such as impala, gazelle, kudu and wildebeest make up the majority of the wild dog’s diet, though prey can vary wildly based upon availability and competition from larger predators such as lions and hyenas. African wild dog packs have also been known to occasionally target livestock animals, leading ranchers to regard them as pests and often kill them without cause.
African wild dogs require extremely large home ranges to thrive. The fragmentation of their natural Serengeti habitat has caused populations to drop from half a million to just 5,500 animals remaining; there are few nature preserves in the world large enough to fully contain wild dog packs.

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