Posted on 29th August 2023 by Media Relations
This Saturday, August 26 is World African Wild Dog Day! Also known as African painted dogs, painted wolves and cape hunting dogs, these unique animals deserve to be celebrated.
African wild dogs are enigmatic predators, successfully catching prey on between 80-90% of their hunts (compare that to around 40% for lions). They display amazing teamwork and skill, making them effective and efficient hunters.
Like domestic dogs, they are intensely social and have strong family bonds. However, they are very distant cousins to our domestic dog family members. African wild dogs only have 4 toes on their front paws, lacking the dew claw of domestic dogs. They have very long legs and large, round ears that stand up and rotate like satellites.
They are incredible marathon runners, reaching speeds of up to 70km/hr and able to sustain these speeds over the course of a long hunt, wearing down their prey. Stamina is their superpower, unlike rival predators who rely on bursts of speed (cheetah), strength (lion), or stealth (leopards). African wild dogs make amazing vocalisations, including high pitched yips, low location calls and an excited ‘rally call’ – but they don’t bark!
In the 1900s, more than half a million African Wild Dogs roamed across Africa. Today, less than 5,000 dogs remain in just a few countries – that’s just 1% of their former numbers – making them Africa’s second most endangered carnivore. Habitat loss, persecution and human-wildlife conflict are the main threats.
Taronga Western Plains Zoo is home to four female African Wild Dogs: Mambo, Spot, Bayana and Masego. We are passionate about educating as many people as possible about these incredible and underrated animals. We find many people who visit us here at the Zoo have never even heard of this species (or easily confuse them with hyenas). If you’ve never heard of an African wild dog, how can you possibly care that they are facing extinction?
Our four beautiful African wild dogs are important ambassadors for their wild cousins. It is a great feeling when we hear guests marvel at how beautiful they are, or remark they have a new favourite species after seeing them here. The best time to see our pack is at their daily 2.20pm feed time, so come on down and meet them!
Taronga is a not-for-profit, meaning that every dollar you spend has the power to protect wildlife like African Wild Dogs.
We support organisations like the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust, which is working hard to reduce human-wildlife conflict with incredible projects such as ‘i-Cow’ – an initiative project where eye patterns are painted on cattle to deter attacks by predators. This tricks predators into thinking they have been spotted by their prey; a red flag for ambush predators. The low-cost intervention is designed to benefit both farmers and predators by reducing livestock losses and retaliatory killing of predators. Now that’s thinking outside the box!
Written by: Keeper Jordan Michelmore