We were extremely fortunate to stumble across a pack of painted dogs (African wild dogs, or hunting dogs) while touring Hwange national park near Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. This area is one of the few parks in Africa (in addition to Kruger park in South Africa and in the Serengeti) that is large enough to support a population of these highly social carnivores.
Unlike the social hierarchy of a lion pride, puppies come first in a painted dog pack. Adults will regurgitate chunks of food for den-bound pups that are too young to travel, and older pups feed first at a kill. A “baby-sitter” remains with the puppies while the rest of the pack hunts to ensure their safety from predators like roaming lions which kill (but do not eat) painted dogs wherever they find them.
Painted dogs once numbered in the hundreds of thousands and could be found in packs as large as 100 individuals in 39 countries, but their numbers have been reduced to about 7000 individuals found in 25 or so countries by poaching, habitat loss, and viral diseases passed along by domestic dogs. A Painted Dog Conservation organization has been monitoring the dogs in Hwange park, collaring some of the dogs to follow their movements.