Securing a shared future for wildlife and people

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Bobby Jo Clow
Justine Powell with Dhole

Taronga moves to support Dhole conservation in Thailand, marking a new direction in support of these whistling hunters. Taronga is currently the only Zoo in Australia with Dhole: Tunlay and Jangala, a non breeding mother-son pair.

Taronga has a 30 year history caring for Dhole, successfully breeding two Dhole pups in 2007 as part of a Conservation Insurance Breeding Program.

Dhole are an endangered species, with every birth helping to secure a future for this unique animal. 

Jangala, the surviving pup, was hand-reared by keepers Louise Ginman and Justine Powell in 2007 for eight weeks, and is very comfortable with keepers. “I’ve had the privilege of hand-rearing Dhole pups, with the serious responsibility of reintroducing them to their pack. It was the best experience in the world, and allowed us to learn a lot about Dhole,” said Louise.

A project supported by Taronga is underway in Thailand to better understand how Dhole compete with other predators, and the impact of humans on the species.

 As part of this project, Dhole will be satellite-collared to learn what they do. Dhole is the least studied and understood of the endangered large carnivores in Asia.

The number of Dhole in Asia has plummeted, with whole packs wiped out by local villagers putting out a poisoned carcasses to kill Dhole, despite Dhole rarely attacking domestic livestock. An important component of the Thailand conservation project is community education about Dhole in the area surrounding Salakpra Wildlife Sanctuary.

Taronga Zoo has also supported a conservation partnership in Cambodia that aims to determine the effects of reserve size and prey density on the ecology and conservation of Dhole.

Taronga will continue to support Dhole conservation. “Dhole are integral to maintaining the Asian ecosystem as key predators and are of scientific importance to researchers as cooperative pack hunters,” Louise said. 

About Dhole
Dhole are an endangered carnivorous red dog from South East Asia and Indochina, with less than 2,500 mature animals estimated in the wild. Dhole are highly social animals, making over 20 different sounds and different body postures to communicate while hunting.

Dhole are skilled hunters, working as a pack to bring down an animal up to 10 times their size using their speed and great stamina. Like tigers, Dholes prefer to chase their prey into water, exhausting animals such as Sambar Deer before they attack. Dholes are classified in their own genus, removed from other species of canidae such as foxes or wolves and cannot interbreed with other animals. 

10 Things You May Not Know About Dhole

  1. Dhole are known as ‘whistling hunters’, producing over 20 different sounds to communicate while hunting.
  2. Dhole are skilled hunters, working as a pack to bring down an animal up to 10 times their size, like Sambar Deer, as they are fast runners with great stamina.
  3. Like tigers, Dholes prefer to chase their prey into water, exhausting animals such as Sambar Deer and wild pigs before they attack.
  4. Dhole can jump 2.3m high!
  5. Dhole are endangered, with currently less than 2,500 mature animals estimated in the wild.
  6. Dholes are classified in their own genus, removed from other species of canidae such as foxes or wolves and cannot interbreed with other animals. 
  7. Dholes do not howl unlike other canidae. Instead they scream and chatter as a warning, and whistle to be heard in the dense jungle. They can even cluck like chicken.
  8. Dholes live in packs headed by a dominant breeding male and female. They are cooperative breeders, with most family members helping to raise the young.
  9. Dhole can be likened to the dinosaur Compsognathus as both are carnivores that roam in packs.
  10. A Dhole pack is featured in “Red Dog”, a Mowgli story by Rudyard Kipling iwn The Second Jungle Book.

By Adela Amanowicz

Watch Dhole at Taronga here. 

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