One of the rarest animals I’ve ever encountered in nature is the African Wild Dog. While on safari in Chobe National Park our guide took us to a pack of them living near the park boundary and we spent a half hour quietly studying them. They reminded me of their namesake, domesticated dogs — sleeping in the warm afternoon, pups tugging at each other and the parents not wanting to be bothered by them. The normality of the scene belied how uncommon seeing these dogs is. No one knows exactly how many of them survive, but by some estimates there are less than 5000 wild dogs left in Africa (about the same number as black rhinos).
Also known as the Cape hunting dog or painted dog, it’s a predator of the thin woodlands and grasslands of sub-Saharan Africa. Thin, lean and long-legged, African Wild Dogs have a multicolored coat which provides great camouflage, large rounded ears and four toed-feet (other dogs have 5 toes, but who’s counting?). Adults are about a meter tall and can weight from 40-80 pounds (18-36 kg).
African wild dogs live and hunt in packs usually comprised of a breeding pair and their pups but sometimes larger groups band together. These dogs are very social, helping weak or ill members and sharing food. They vocalize and communicate like most canines, are excellent hunters and can tackle smaller antelopes and even larger prey like impala or wildebeest, especially if they are old, very young or injured. The African Wild Dog is threatened by expanding human settlements, being killed as a potential pest (who might kill livestock) and diseases they can catch from domesticated animals.
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