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Getting to Know The Wild Dogs of Madikwe

By Madikwe Hills on October 14, 2020

The fifth largest game reserve in South Africa, the Madikwe Game Reserve is home to over 80 different kinds of mammals including Cheetahs, Leopards, Hyenas, Lion, Elephant, Buffalo, Giraffe and the endangered African Wild Dogs.

In December 1994, forming part of a massive game translocation operation named Operation Phoenix, six African wild dogs were relocated into the Madikwe Game Reserve. Three females and three males, were placed into an enclosure, following which they formed a new pack and were later released into the reserve. The project was a resounding success and today Madikwe has a thriving population of Painted Wolves.

African wild dogs, also known as ‘Painted Wolves’ are the largest of the wild canids in Africa and one of the continent’s most endangered carnivores. Once called Cape Hunting Dogs, it is estimated that less than 7000 wild dogs exist in the wild. Viable populations are only found in larger reserves and uninhabited areas of Eastern and Southern Africa.

Facts About African Wild Dogs

  • The scientific name for the African wild dog is Lycaon pictus.
  • Wild dogs are extremely sociable animals and are usually found in packs of between 5 and 15 members in size.
  • Each pack has a clearly defined social hierarchy and is led by an alpha male and female.
  • In most packs only the alpha male and female reproduce.
  • Working together in extremely organised units, the wild dog is an effective predator, capable of bringing down prey as large as buffalo.
  • At a sprint, the African wild dog can reach speeds of 70km per hour or more.
  • The bonds between members of the pack are unbreakable; all dogs cooperate in caring for and feeding pups as well as injured or sick members.
  • There are 5 species of African wild dogs recognised: Cape wild dog, East African wild dog, Somali wild dog, Chadian wild dog and West African wild dog. While genetically diverse, they are typically all called African wild dogs for the sake of simplicity.
  • African wild dogs in Southern Africa tend to breed between April and July each year.
  • The average number of pups per litter is 10, but there can be between 6 and 16 pups per litter.
  • African wild dogs are speedy eaters, with the pack able to consume a medium-sized antelope in 15 minutes.
  • Pups old enough to eat solid food are given first priority at kills, before even the alpha pair eat their share.
  • The arch nemeses of the African wild dogs are lions and spotted hyenas due to the fact that they compete for the same food source.
wild dogs south africa

Despite susceptibility to diseases such as rabies, diminishing natural habitats, threats from other predators and persecution by man taking a toll of population numbers, there is a world-wide collective effort to protect and conserve these gregarious animals. To find out how you can play a part in the ongoing protection of the species, take a look at the Painted Dog Conservation website.

Have you been lucky enough to spot African wild dogs while on safari in South Africa? If not, it might be time to book a trip to Madikwe Hills Private Game Lodge situated in the heart of the Madikwe Game Reserve. Find out more here and book your stay today.

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