African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus)

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Quick Facts

Family: Canidae
Scientific name: Lycaon pictus
Common name: African Wild Dog, Painted Hunting Dog, Painted Wolf
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Status: Endangered C2a(i) ver 3.1
Population estimate (in the wild): 6600
Approximate number of mature individuals: 1400
Population trend: Decreasing

The African Wild Dog (also known as the African Hunting Dog or Painted Dog) is the second most endangered carnivore in Africa. They are a canid that lives throughout Africa from heavily forested areas to open plains. In South Africa, there are fewer than 650 remaining in the wild. Although their population is increasing in South Africa, they continue to decline across the rest of their range. They are characterised by a black, white and brown coat pattern, with each individual having a unique pattern from which they can be identified, much like a human fingerprint. They are co-operative pack animals containing an alpha pair which are normally the only individuals responsible for breeding, with the rest of the pack assisting in the rearing and protection of the young.

African Wild Dogs typically breed only once a year, with mating usually taking place in March/April. They have a gestation period of approximately 75 days, after which the alpha female will give birth in a den. The den sites used vary from permanent structures such as rocky outcrops to semi-permanent structures such as abandoned burrows and between the roots of trees. The litter will remain at the den for approximately two months before they start to move short distances with the pack. African Wild Dogs hunt a variety of prey depending on the size of their pack but will generally hunt medium sized antelope such as nyala and impala. Larger packs have been known to hunt blue wildebeest, zebra and eland.

Due to their endangered status, African Wild Dogs are our focal species which the majority of our conservation efforts are based around. Our intensive monitoring of African Wild Dogs is done 365 days a year. Our ultimate goal is to reintroduce painted dogs successfully back into their historical ranges and ensure the protection of the population into the future.

Wildlife ACT’s Work with Wild Dogs

RESERVES : Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, uMkhuze Game Reserve, Tembe Elephant Park, Somkhanda Game Reserve and Manyoni Private Game Reserve.

  • Day-to-day monitoring of the entire KwaZulu-Natal population, with 5 dedicated monitoring teams looking out for wild dog in KZN. Volunteers are able to join these monitoring teams and participate in all the necessary conservation work. Find out more
  • Funding and fitting VHF and GPS Satellite Collars for understanding the detailed distribution and success of the KZN population. Our ultimate goal is to collar each and every Painted Dog pack in South Africa.
  • Funding and fitting Anti-Snare Collars to reduce the number of wild dogs caught as bycatch. These are proving very successful with reducing injuries and fatalities.
  • We have established a Rapid Emergency Response Fund and team to find and retrieve wild dogs outside of protected areas in KZN.
  • We are responsible for the funding within the KZN Wild dog Advisory Group – a provincial advisory group bringing together a government conservation bodies, private and community-owned reserves, leading conservation NGOs and wild dog specialists.
  • We are currently helping with the reintroduction of new populations into protected areas within KZN.
  • Our collars and tracking equipment not only helps us find the dogs daily, but also give a trapped animal caught in a snare a fighting chance of survival.

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Endangered with many sub-populations continuing to decline.


African wild dogs have disappeared from much of their former range. Their population is currently estimated at approximately 6,600 adults in 39 subpopulations, of which only 1,400 are mature individuals. Population size is continuing to decline as a result of ongoing habitat fragmentation, conflict with human activities, and infectious disease. Given uncertainty surrounding population estimates, and the species’ tendency to population fluctuations, the largest sub-populations might well number <250 mature individuals, thereby warranting listing as Endangered under criterion C2a(i).(IUCN)

Major Threats

Why are African Wild Dogs so Endangered? Major threats to Wild Dogs include the destruction and fragmentation of their habitat which limits their ability to safely find new mates. They are also extremely vulnerable to being caught in poachers’ snares, as well as persecution from farmers and livestock owners when they leave the safety of protected areas, and infectious diseases from contact with domestic animals.

Interesting Wild Dog Facts

  • Its scientific name means Painted Wolf. Common names include African Wild Dog and African Hunting Dog.
  • Packs of Wild Dog have an alpha male and alpha female. The alpha pair is generally the only pair that breeds, but the entire pack shares responsibility for protecting the pups, with both males and females babysitting the young.
  • The alpha female can give birth to litters of 15 puppies or more.
  • Wild Dogs have incredible endurance – being able to run at roughly 48km/h for 5km
  • African Wild Dogs have one of the highest hunting success rates of any carnivore species, reaching a success rate where up to 85% of hunts end in a kill.
  • Wild Dog prey can weigh anywhere from 2x to 10x more than their own body weight.
  • African Wild Dogs primarily prey on large mammals such as Warthogs and numerous antelope species (especially Nyala), supplementing their diet with rodents, lizards, birds and insects.
  • Unlike other dogs, African Wild Dogs have four toes instead of five.

Learn more about African Wild Dog Behaviour, Monitoring & Conservation.