It is always a special treat to see wild dogs, also referred to as African painted dogs, on safari. There are only an estimated 1,400 wild dogs left in South Africa, but Kristin recently had the pleasure of spending time with not one, but two packs of wild dog in the Sabi Sands!
Wild dogs are social and gather in packs of around ten individuals, but some packs number more than 40. They are opportunistic predators that hunt medium-sized ruminants, such as gazelles. Of the large carnivores, wild dogs are probably the most efficient hunters—targeted prey rarely escapes. In a sprint, African wild dogs can reach speeds of more than 44 miles per hour. These fast moving animals often mean a fast race to a sighting before they disappear!
Wild dogs have a colorful, patchy coat; large bat-like ears; and a bushy tail with a white tip that may serve as a flag to keep the pack in contact while hunting. No two wild dogs are marked exactly the same, making it easy to identify individuals.
Throughout Africa, wild dogs have been shot and poisoned by farmers who often blame them when a leopard or hyena kills livestock. The principal threat to this species is habitat fragmentation, which increases human-wildlife conflict and localized, small population extinction due to epidemic disease. As human populations expand, leading to agriculture, settlements, and roads, wild dogs are losing the spaces in which they were once able to roam freely. We partner with lodge companies who value conservation of endangered species such as the wild dog. Our eco-tourism focus weaves conservation and economic opportunity together to incentivize wild dog protection.
Everyday on safari brings surprises...will you see the African painted dogs on your next trip?!