Last year, an injured wild dog that had been severely bitten on his hind legs was transported to HESC and treated by Dr Rogers. Under the doctor’s care, the dog was stitched up and placed in quarantine at the centre, where he recovered beautifully. Taking the next steps to reintroduce him to the wild, the team at HESC managed to successfully pair the wild dog with another single male and released the two into the reserve.
The dogs were fitted with tracking collars, which enabled the team to track their progress once they were out in the reserve – an area where female wild dogs had been spotted. On the release day, an exciting day for all of us, Linri from HESC and Dr Rogers opened the crates and the wild dogs walked off into the bush together.
Today, eight or so months later, we are thrilled to see the dogs thriving well out in the wild in the reserve.
Our rangers at Jabulani have been fortunate to have had a few special sightings of the animals recently. And not just the animals, but new pups!
Last year, the dogs in the Kruger area all had very few pups – it was either no pups at all or only one. So this was great news for us to come across so many puppies in a pack that is actually quite small.
Below are a few photos captured by Jabulani Ranger Ruan Roos of the dogs and their little ones out in the reserve.
Get to know your wild dog
Lycaon pictus. You know they’re part of a pack, that you should never get in between them during a chase and that they resemble your own cherished hound at home. But just how much do you know about the African wild dog? Here are a few interesting facts about these endangered animals – their appearance, their years as pups and mums, and why the conservation of their species is so critical.
WHAT DO THEY LOOK LIKE?
- African wild dogs weigh between 19 and 34 kilograms (41 and 66 pounds). Females are generally larger than males and may reach 34 kilograms (75 pounds), while males reach an average of 24 kilograms (53 pounds).
- They have large rounded ears and long legs, a bushy tail and shaggy coats coloured black, yellow and white. The colour pattern of each dog is distinct and can be used for individual identification.
- Wild dogs are the only canid species lacking dew claws on its front legs.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE
- Wild dogs are seasonal, co-operative breeders and whelping generally occurs from April to September, after a gestation period of 71 to 73 days. In southern Africa, pups are born mostly from late May to early June.
- Pups are born in a den, where they remain for the first three months of life. The mother is confined to the den while nursing and relies on other pack members to feed her during that time. The mother delivers food to the pups by regurgitation.
- Wild dog females cannot successfully rear pups without assistance and in most cases the pack, rather than the individual, is considered the basic unit within the population.
- Other pack members will help to care for the pups – helping to ‘baby-sit’ the pups and chase predators away from the den. They also take care of the old and sick.
- In most packs, only the dominant alpha female breeds and mates with an unrelated male. Reproductive depression of the other females in a pack is the consequence of limited resources, behavioural patterns and endocrine mechanisms.
- Females can give birth every 11 months. The litter size varies but, on average, there are 10 to 11 pups per litter, although there may be 20 or more.
- Pups are born blind and they leave the den for the first time when 3 to 4 weeks old. Weaning, a gradual process, begins when the pups are 14 days old.
- Pups are sexually mature after 23 months and start leaving the pack when they are 1,5 years old.
HAVE YOU SEEN A WILD DOG?
- The African wild dog is one of the most threatened carnivores in the world following its dramatic population decline over the past 30 years. On the African continent, where it occurs exclusively, it is the second most endangered carnivore (after the Ethiopian wolf), and the most endangered in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Habitat fragmentation, persecution, and prey loss are the main reasons for their dramatic decline across most of Africa – as well as road accidents, snaring and diseases contracted from domestic dogs.
- Wild dogs’ social dynamics have also played a role. Because of their need for helpers in hunting and motherhood, for instance, declining numbers of pack members has a negative impact on the ability of packs to survive under adverse conditions.
- Small populations of wild dogs remain in several countries in southern and eastern Africa – including in the Kruger National Park (South Africa), the Zambezi and Hwange National Parks (Zimbabwe), the Okavango region (Botswana) and the Selous National Park (Tanzania).
- With adequate protection and management, there is no reason why these populations should not survive.
Discover more about the uniqueness of the African wild dog here.