Sun, 02 Aug 2015

So why wild dogs - By Dylan Smith

So why Wild Dogs?

Madikwe game reserve is known to so many people as the best chance of seeing wild dogs. Even field guides flock here for a chance to work with the dogs, but why? So many people have actually never even heard of wild dogs, never mind why everyone is so crazy about them.

Well lets first look at what wild dogs look like. They look just like any house dog, with long legs and large round ears. On their fur is a beautiful pattern which gives them their scientific name Lycaon pictus, which means painted wolf. Each of the dogs patterns is unique, just like a humans finger print. This makes them without a doubt one of the more beautiful predators on the continent.

The wild dog is probably one of the most successful predators on the African continent. They use a “line of sight” style of hunting, where they will sneak up on prey, and once close enough, chase after the desired target in a burst of speed. Wild dogs can chase an animal for over 5km while running at speeds of up to 48kmph. Rather than pulling down their prey they run it until exhaustion and basically eat it alive. This is a brutal, but efficient way of hunting.

Wild dogs are very pack orientated animals, with an intricate social structure within the pack. The pack is led by the alpha pair, whom are the breeding members of the pack, all the other members do all they can to assist in the rearing of the alpha pairs pups. This dedication to each other is what fascinates so much about these rare animals. Their bond is incredibly strong and they are constantly touching and playing to reaffirm this bond. They never leave a member of the pack behind, and they will defend each other with their lives. There have even been records where the alpha female died, but the males in the pack were still able to raise the pups up successfully.

All these characteristics and traits and squeezed are squeezed into the wild dog to make them one of the worlds most perfectly designed predators. Their entire life is built around ensuring their future is assured, and they have evolved the capability of doing this to the best of their abilities. All of this and yet they are disappearing from our planet faster then we have a chance to save them.

Wild dogs need an immense space to exist, some hunting ranges expanding over 2000km, and because of human encroachment they are simply running out of living space. The wild dog is also highly susceptible to various canine diseases. The was also a well-practised rule in various parks throughout Africa to shoot these perfect predators on sight as late the 1960’s because of the belief that the killed domestic and game species.

The African wild dog is one of the flagship animals of conservation in Africa, and there are so many efforts to save these exceptional animals. Madikwe is one of these efforts where we host a pack of five wild dogs, whom are living successfully and happily within the reserve. They recently have had pups, but no one knows just how many yet.

So many people come from far and wide to see and work with this perfect predator, the wild dog, and without all these people they would already be gone.