|[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note|
The African Wild Dog hunts in packs. Like most members of the dog family, it is a cursorial hunter, meaning that it pursues its prey in a long, open chase. Nearly 80% of all hunts end in a kill. Members of a pack vocalize to help coordinate their movements. Its voice is characterized by an unusual chirping or squeaking sound, similar to a bird.
After a successful hunt, hunters regurgitate meat for those that remained at the den during the hunt, such as the dominant female and the pups. They will also feed other pack members, such as the sick, injured, or very old that cannot keep up.
The African Wild Dog's main prey varies among populations but always centers around medium-sized ungulates, such as the Impala. While the vast majority of its diet is made up of mammal prey, it sometimes hunts large birds, especially Ostriches.
A few packs will also include large animals in their prey, such as wildebeests and zebras. Hunting larger prey requires a closely coordinated attack, beginning with a rapid charge to stampede the herd. One African Wild Dog then grabs the victim's tail, while another attacks the upper lip, and the remainder disembowel the animal while it is immobilised. This behaviour is also used on other large dangerous prey, such as the warthog, the African buffalo, giraffe calves and large antelope—even the one-ton Giant eland.The dogs often eat their prey while it is still alive. This disemboweling was a reason to regard the African Wild Dog as repulsive, but recent studies have shown that prey of the African Wild Dog die quicker than prey of the lion and the leopard, which kill their prey by grabbing the throat and suffocating the animal.
Remarkably, this large-animal hunting tactic appears to be a learned behavior, passed on from generation to generation within specific hunting packs, rather than an instinctive behaviour found commonly within the species. Some studies have also shown that other information, such as the location of watering holes, may be passed on in a similar fashion.
Distribution and threats:
The home range of packs varies enormously, depending on the size of the pack and the nature of the terrain. Their preferred habitat is deciduous forests because of large prey herd size, lack of competition from other carnivores, and better sites for denning. In the Serengeti, the average range has been estimated at 1,500 square kilometres (580 square miles), although individual ranges overlap extensively.
There were once about 500,000 African Wild Dogs in 39 countries, and packs of 100 or more were not uncommon. Now there are only about 3,000-5,500 in fewer than 25 countries.They are primarily found in eastern and southern Africa, mostly in the two remaining large populations associated with the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania and the population centered in northern Botswana and eastern Namibia. Smaller but apparently secure populations of several hundred individuals are found in Zimbabwe, South Africa (Kruger National Park) and in the Ruaha/Rungwa/Kisigo complex of Tanzania. Isolated populations persist in Zambia, Kenya and Mozambique.
The African Wild Dog is endangered by habitat loss and hunting. It uses very large territories (and so can persist only in large wildlife protected areas), and it is strongly affected by competition with larger carnivores that rely on the same prey base, particularly the lion and the spotted hyena. Lions often will kill as many wild dogs as they can but do not eat them. It is also killed by livestock herders and game hunters, though it is typically no more (perhaps less) persecuted than other carnivores that pose more threat to livestock. Most of Africa's national parks are too small for a pack of wild dogs, so the packs expand to the unprotected areas, which tend to be ranch or farm land. Ranchers and farmers protect their domestic animals by killing the wild dogs. Like other carnivores, the African Wild Dog is sometimes affected by outbreaks of viral diseases such as rabies, distemper and parvovirus. Although these diseases are not more pathogenic or virulent for wild dogs, the small size of most wild dog populations makes them vulnerable to local extinction due to diseases or other problems.
The Painted Dog Conservation (PDC) effort, based in Hwange National Park, western Zimbabwe, works with local communities to create new strategies for conserving the wild dog and its habitat.
A controversy began in the late 1990s when conservationists working to protect lycaon pictus said that their most common name, "African Wild Dog", was a source of confusion and prejudice. Conservationist Greg Rasmussen wrote in 1998:
"The name 'wild dog' developed during an era of persecution of all predators when the name applied to feral dogs, hyenas, jackals and the cape hunting dogs (Pringle, 1980). 'Painted' aside from being a direct translation of the specific epithet, accurately describes the unique varicoloured markings of each individual. Apart from being misleading, continued use of the name 'wild dog' does little more than further fuel negative attitude and prejudice which is detrimental to conservation efforts."
Rasmussen is one of the founders of the Painted Hunting Dog Research Project. He advocates using the name "painted hunting dog"
This particular photo was taken very close to Afsaal picnic spot in the Kruger Park, south of Skukuza. We had watched the pack chase an Impala ram, which, to the best of our knowledge, managed to out-run them. This photo was taken after the chase and there is no sign of any blood on this animal's mouth, hence our belief that the Impala had a lucky escape.
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