For seasoned safari-goers that’d have ticked the Big 5 off their bucket list, seeing wild dogs in Africa is often high on the priority list. Also known as African hunting dog, African painted dog, painted hunting dog, or painted wolf, wild dogs have disappeared from much of their original range due to shrinking habitats, human persecution and disease. As packs became fewer and less commonly seen, more and more visitors have become interested in viewing them. Take a look at some of the best places on the continent to see African wild dogs.
The African painted dog
Once persecuted as vermin, the African wild dog is the continent’s second-rarest carnivore after the Simian wolf and is only found in a handful of game reserves in east and southern Africa. Your chances of seeing a pack depend on where you go, and by putting yourself in the right place at the right time with a good guide, you increase your chances dramatically.
Wild dog populations
The wild dog is Southern Africa’s most endangered large carnivore. The total wild dog population in Africa is only between 3000 – 5000 individuals. Wild dogs are considered to be extinct in 23 countries in Africa. The population in the Greater Kruger Area has fluctuated significantly since research started in 1989, ranging from less than 200 animals to approximately 400 today.
The best places to see wild dogs in Africa
Kruger National Park and surrounding Sabi Sand and Timbavati Game Reserves are some of the best places in South Africa to see African wild dogs. The Linyati Concession in Botswana, Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa, Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe and South Luangwa in Zambia all also have healthy wild dog populations.
African wild dogs are pack hunters, relentlessly running down their prey over several kilometres. It is survival of the fastest and 7 times out of 10 the chase ends in favour of the dogs. The ensuing spectacle isn’t for the faint at heart – the dogs quickly devour the unlucky quarry – but it’s a swift and clinical death.
The species is a specialised diurnal hunter of plains game, which it catches by chasing them to exhaustion. African wild dogs are highly social animals, living in packs with separate dominance hierarchies for males and females. Uniquely among social carnivores, the females rather than the males scatter from the natal pack once mature, and the young are allowed to feed first on carcasses.
Wild dogs populations in the Kruger Area
African wild dogs are mostly found in savanna and arid zones, generally avoiding forested areas as their hunting habits require open areas that do not obstruct vision or impede pursuit. South Africa’s wild dog population is listed as ‘specially protected’ in the South African Red Data Book, and it has a stronghold in Kruger National Park.
The Kruger population numbers at around 375–450 specimens, though they face pressure from lions and spotted hyenas, and are sometimes shot or snared outside park boundaries. There have been several attempts to reintroduce the species elsewhere, though only two of these attempts proved successful. Six specimens were released into the Madikwe Game Reserve during the 1990s. Take a look at more sightings from Kings Camp below.
It is important to note that African wild dogs are indeed wild, so keep your distance! If you are considering embarking on a safari and seeing wild dogs is on your wish list, consider visiting Kings Camp in the Timbavati. We’ll help you plan a safari tour that will suit you best.