A Cautious Comeback for the African Wild Dog

The African wild dog, sadly an endangered species found on open plains and sparse woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa.

Unlike other dog's which have five toes on their forefeet, the African wild dog has four toes per foot, these long-legged canines equipped with big rounded ears (pretty sure necessities when living in such potentially dangerous habits and not just beneficial for hunting) their mottled coat of brown, black, red and yellow fur is where the African dog gets its Latin name (Lycaon pictus) which means "painted wolf".

Like all free or wild dogs, the live in packs, usually dominated by a monogamous breeding pair, the female producing a litter from 2 to 20 pups, which are cared for by the entire pack. A very social dog, knows to share their food with weak or ill pack members.

This beautiful dog communicates with social interactions which include vocalizations and touch. Formidable hunters, cooperating in packs of 6 to 20, sometimes more, but sadly larger packs are less common and now are on the endangered list. Antelope is a staple part of their diet (long legs and pack communications, proving a deadly combination for this quick and nimble prey) know also to take much larger prey, particularly if their quarry is ill or injured, whilst not above taking rodents and bird's to supplement their diet.

As human settlements expand, the dogs have been known to take livestock, though significant damage is rare, unfortunately, they are often hunted and killed by farmers protecting domestic animals, unfortunately they are very prone to disease spread by domestic animals.

African hunting dogs are endangered. They are faced with shrinking room to roam in their African home. Thankfully it's not all bad news, the African wild dog numbers have begun climbing from an estimated low of 4,000-5,000 in the 1990s to today's estimate of less than 7000.

Dr. Gregory Rasmussen, Research Director with the Wild Dog Research Trust of Zimbabwe, believes one cause might be more aggressive campaigns against poaching, which include the ingenious anti - snare collar to protect the wild dogs from wire traps.

The slow resurgence of this beautiful wild dog, with its communication chorus of quiet chirps that show greater cooperation than almost any other social mammal, a deliberate kindness bordering on altruism, is a welcome yelp of good news in a land that sorely needs it.

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