One of the lesser-known predators that roam the African plains is the wild dog which are an interesting species for those who discover them. While cats such as lions, cheetahs, and leopard might have overshadowed them in popularity, these dogs are no less magical to watch. A popular reason why many people are not aware of the African wild dog is they are quite elusive, and it is never easy to see them on most safaris. As such, for many people, a tour in Kenya is always completed without getting to have a sight of these predators whose scientific name, Lycaon pictus, can be loosely translated to the ‘painted wolf’.
A primary reason why the African wild dogs have become harder to spot is that as human encroachment continued, conflict emerged between then and local farmers as they attacked their livestock. The result was a lot of killings not only by the farmers but poachers who wiped them out in numbers. African wild dogs have equally suffered a lot from disease outbreaks such as distemper and rabies, which they quickly contract from domesticated animals. An outbreak of any of the diseases that affect them can rapidly wipe out a significant number of them in a region.
According to research, there was a time when these dogs roamed the whole continent and that there are different subspecies adapted for each region. The major categories are the East African wild dog, West African wild dog, Cape wild dog, Somali wild dog, and Chadian wild dog. As the numbers of this species reduced across Africa, they have successfully selected nocturnal behavior which has seen them avoid as much contact as possible with humans. This is also attributed to their physique as their rounded ears allow them to easily pick sounds from a distance before they quickly move.
On the bright side, a lot of efforts have been made to ensure that the human-wildlife conflict is reduced and this species is gradually regaining its presence in the African wilderness. This does not, however, erase the fact that they are nomadic and they hardly remain in a single territory unless they are denning. In a day, these predators can cover as much as 50km, and it is never as simple to pinpoint their exact location in most instances. However, as they easily find food sources in certain areas, they tend to stay there as they do not need to cover the long distances.
In Kenya, the wild dogs in the Serengeti provide the perfect opportunity to have an encounter with this unique species of dogs. A defining characteristic that sees these predators have high hunting success rates is their excellent co-ordination and high intelligence. They are therefore able to take down large preys through different hunting tactics which primarily involve tiring or cornering their target. This is further made simpler given that they live and hunt in packs which can contain as many as 25 dogs. Similar to all other predators, this species is unlike the domesticated dog and is a natural killer that thrives in the wilderness.