- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Carnivora
- Family: Canidae
- Subfamily: Caninae
- Tribe: Canini
- Genus: Lycaon
- Species: L. pictus
The African wild dog is a social creature, with a lean, powerful frame and a steely determination for chasing down its prey. Their yellow and black fur makes them particularly distinctive, to one another as well as to us; individuals can recognize each other over long distances, making them highly effective in teams.
They are one of the most social predators in Africa, as well one of the most successful: pack members work together to wear prey to the ground, chasing them to the point of exhaustion, nipping at their hindquarters until they stumble. About 80% of hunts are successful, and the youngest members of the pack are rewarded with the first bites. Pups too young to hunt are fed by the returning adults, who regurgitate meat for them to feast on. Packs will hunt larger prey, like wildebeest, antelope and warthogs, while smaller animals such as rodents or porcupines are hunted by single individuals.
The African wild dog is a quick animal, reaching up to speeds of 44 miles per hour, they are not overly large, an average adult can weigh up to 70 pounds and can reach a length of 76 inches.
Once widespread across Africa, their numbers in 2012 were a mere 6,600 adults. African wild dogs are largely extinct in North and West Africa, having significant populations only in southern and south-eastern Africa.
One significant reason for their decline is due to human interference with the African wild dog’s habitat. Habitats have been fragmented by farming and other human activities, reducing the amount of crossbreeding between different populations. In addition, accidental killings from traps and road accidents add to the number that are deliberately shot or poisoned by those protecting their livestock.
African wild dogs are susceptible to predation by lions, competition from hyenas and infectious diseases; local extinctions are common enough that considerable effort is necessary to prevent human activity causing a global extinction.