Rare African hunting dogs set up den at Africa Alive in Kessingland

One of the three Cape hunting dogs at Africa Alive in Kessingland. One of the three Cape hunting dogs at Africa Alive in Kessingland.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014
12:48 PM

A pack of rare Cape hunting dogs are settling in to their new home at Africa Alive in Kessingland as part of a project to save the species from extinction.

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The African wild dogs, named Golf, Skittle and Half Scoop, recently arrived from West Midland Safari Park in Worcestershire.

They are part of the European breeding programme and are the first of their kind to ever be kept here at the park.

Their scientific name Lycaon pictus literally means painted wolf and each dog’s striking coat pattern is as individual as our own fingerprints.

They are widely spread across the African plains, with fragmented distribution across Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Swaziland, parts of Zimbabwe and the Transvaal in South Africa.

They are classed as endangered, with only approximately 6,000 left in the wild.

An African Alive spokesman said: “One of the biggest threats to the African wild dog is from farmers who hunt and kill them because they fear that the dogs will prey on their livestock.

“A drastic decline in their natural habitat has also pushed the remaining populations into small pockets of their former range, and they are now most commonly found within National Parks.

“Our three Cape hunting dogs are part of a European endangered species breeding programme and with only around 200 living in zoos around the world, they are hopefully the start of the park’s involvement in trying to save this superb animal from extinction.”

Cape hunting dogs have huge home ranges and are constant wanderers. In the Serengeti, the estimated size of each pack’s territory is equivalent in area to the size of Greater London which, whilst home to 7.5 million people, could only support one or two African wild dog packs.

No two wild dogs have the same markings, which makes them easily identifiable as individuals.

The entire pack shares responsibility for protecting the pups, with both males and females babysitting the young.

There is usually only one breeding pair, which are the dominant male and female members. After a gestation period of around 70 days, the female gives birth from anything between 2 and 20 pups in a den underground. She remains in the den with her young for the first few weeks, relying on the other pack members to provide her with food.

Unlike many other species, once they reach maturity, it is generally the males that stay within their birth pack while females migrate and join new packs.

They are the world’s most sociable dog species and do everything as a group, from hunting and sharing food, to helping sick members and assisting in raising young.

Although they resemble some domestic dogs, they differ in that they have four toes on each foot instead of five.

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