- Every Tuesday, Mongabay brings you a new episode of Candid Animal Cam, our show featuring animals caught on camera traps around the world and hosted by Romi Castagnino, our writer and conservation scientist.
Camera traps bring you closer to the secretive natural world and are an important conservation tool to study wildlife. This week we’re meeting the African wild dog.
African wild dogs are neither wolves nor dogs, even though they belong to the Canidae family. In fact, they have their own genus. Their biggest populations are in the open plains and sparse woodland of Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Zambia, Tanzania, and Mozambique. African wild dogs are highly social animals forming packs that can have more than 60 members. They live and hunt in groups that are usually dominated by a monogamous breeding pair. These dogs have a higher success rate killing prey than lions and leopards. Rather than the suffocation strategy used by big cats when they catch large prey, African wild dogs will bite their prey until it stops running. However, if it’s a smaller animal they will pull and tear it apart. Unfortunately, African wild dogs are listed as Endangered with fewer 6,000 individuals left in the wild. Habitat loss, human-wildlife conflict, being caught in snares as bycatch by poachers hunting for meat, and infectious diseases like canine distemper and rabies, are among the factors that affect their population. To protect this species we need to create protected wildlife corridors to help connect their fragmented habitats and also reduce its conflict with humans. Watch the video to learn more about them!
Special thanks to Peter Apps from Botswana Predator Conservation for sharing this footage with us. Apps is involved in two camera trapping research projects that generate unique and ground-breaking videos of African large carnivores; one on leopard predation and the other one on African wild dog shared marking sites. Apps team is using camera traps to record the dogs’ responses to experimentally manipulated scents. Understanding African wild dogs’ scent marking is a key step in Botswana Predator Conservation’s development of a ‘BioBoundary’ that relies on an artificial scent. The aim is that the boundary will deter wild dogs from leaving the safety of protected wildlife areas.
Banner image: a snapshot of Megan Claase’s 2015 video
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Banner photo by Charles J. Sharp via Wikimedia common
Review questions for educators
These questions can help provide a framework for exploring topics presented in this story.
- How are biologists able to easily identify individual African wild dogs?
- What kind of social structure do African wild dog packs have?
- How are African wild dogs different from dogs and wolves?