African Wild Dogs
About the species
African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) are endemic to Africa and are the largest canid species on the continent. They are also known as “painted wolves”, “painted dogs”, or “Cape hunting dogs”. Although they are in the Canidae family with species like wolves and coyotes, African wild dogs are the only living species remaining in the genus Lycaon. African wild dogs are cooperative breeders, meaning that they live and raise pups cooperatively in packs, which vary in size between 2 and 27 adults. Wild dogs are curious, playful, and highly social animals – they make a wide range of vocalizations that they use to greet and communicate with one another. They are excellent hunters, working together in groups and running up to 43 miles per hour (69 km per hour) to chase down their prey. African wild dogs are also born with unique coat patterns that remain unchanged through adulthood, which allows them to be individually identified throughout their lives, like a fingerprint.
African wild dogs are globally Endangered and their population trend is declining. Today, the species occupies only 10% of its historical range across Africa, and less than 1500 mature adults are estimated to be remaining in the wild. African wild dogs have the largest space requirements of African large carnivores, and habitat fragmentation is the species’ principal threat. Habitat fragmentation increases direct mortality of wild dogs from human-wildlife conflict and disease transmission from domestic animals. Fragmentation also isolates populations from one another, which increases the risk of inbreeding depression. In addition, temperature extremes caused by climate change threaten the species by reducing reproductive success.
Dr. Briana Abrahms has worked in Botswana, home to one of the last remaining strongholds of African wild dog populations, since 2011. There, she partners with the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks and one of Africa’s longest-running conservation NGOs, Botswana Predator Conservation, to study, monitor, and protect African wild dogs and other large carnivore species. Her work on wild dog conservation includes efforts to restore habitat connectivity, reduce human-carnivore conflict, understand climate change impacts, and conduct educational outreach to tourists and local community members.