The African Painted Dog (aka Cape Hunting Dog, African Wild Dog, or Wild Dog) is a unique predator that once ranged most of the continent of Africa. One of two crepuscular/diurnal predators in Africa, they are more at risk of extinction than the big cats of Africa. There are less than 6,600 African Painted Dogs left and they are now classified as endangered on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List.
Why are Painted Dogs so Important? They are one of Africa’s most efficient predators. Their 80% success rate helps to regulate prey species which in turn plays a role in molding vegetation communities. In addition, they may have a significant impact on the structure and function of ecosystems because they are one of the top carnivores, considered a landscape species, and require large, ecologically diverse areas to survive. Securing their future is an essential part in stemming the loss of biodiversity and maintaining a healthy ecosystem.
Weighing 44 – 55 pounds, and standing 27- 43 inches tall, the Painted Dog lives up to its name with its stunning parti-colored coats of black, tan and gold. Each coat pattern is unique to the individual and acts as camouflage. Their large, upright ears, coloring, and long legs often have people confusing them with Hyenas-but they are a distinctly different species. Unlike the domestic dog, the Painted Dog has only four toes (painted dogs are not related to domestic dogs), and they emit a strong pungent odor from their entire body. They also have different distinctive calls, some of which sound like birds. The most well-known call is the “HOO” call, which can be heard from miles away.
Painted dogs used to have a wide range of distribution throughout Africa. Today they are only found in Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Botswana, and South Africa due to loss of habitat, human-wildlife conflict, being the incidental victim of snares, and domestic pet disease. Painted Dogs require a large territory – as much as 3,000 km2 (1,158 mi2) to support the pack, which can consist of up 30 individuals. For the most part, the African Wild Dog is found in savanna and arid zones, generally avoiding forested areas. The theory behind this preference is that the geography is linked to the animal’s hunting habits, which require open areas that do not obstruct vision or hinder chasing down prey. While in pursuit of their prey, Painted Dogs can reach speeds of 40 miles per hour!
The African Painted dog has very strong social bonds. It lives in permanent packs consisting of two to 30 adults and yearling pups. The gestation period lasts 69-73 days, with a standard interval of 12-14 months between each pregnancy. The African wild dog produces more pups than any other canid, with litters containing around six to 16 pups.
Once found throughout sub-Saharan Africa by the hundreds of thousands, their numbers have radically declined, especially in recent years. With so much poaching of other wildlife occurring the Painted Dogs are a sad statistic of the secondary consequences. They get caught in poacher’s traps and snares and die a cruel and horrible death.
Threats to the Painted Dogs
Diseases from domestic dogs such as rabies, distemper, and parvovirus.
Loss of habitat. They use very large territories and avoid competing with lions (who are their second largest threat after humans) and hyena. High lion density areas directly correlate with low wild dog density areas and vice versa. Hyenas do not typically kill wild dogs but will kleptoparasitize.
Poaching. They are often caught in snares intended for antelope and other game.
Farmers will shoot wild dogs and poison dens. Historically misidentified as pests, but with little evidence, since they will only hunt livestock when desperate (leopard and hyena kills are more common) and typically don’t spend much time in one area. No recorded cases of painted dogs attacking people in the wild.
How GCF is Helping the Painted Dogs
Luckily there are many ways we can help tackle the problems African Painted Dogs face, and we are already heading into the fight to protect them. Global Conservation Force is partnering with Painted Dog Conservation (PDC) and Painted Dog Research Trust (PDRT). The following are some of the approaches we’re taking to help save this amazing species:
- We are starting to set up advanced APU (Anti-Poaching Unit) ranger training programs (including hand-to-hand combat training & combat medical training).
- We plan to continue APU support (training or gear) for PDRT EcoRangers and PDC APU.
- We plan to support community conservation projects with education outreach to help locals understand how unique these rare canines are. Our goal is to build community schools in some of the most rural areas of Africa to better support education outreach for all the species we fight to keep safe.
- We hope to support PDC with GPS Iridium collars and handheld data gathering devices.