Painted dogs

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.

Painted dogs in Hwange national park, Zimbabwe

Easy to miss as they rest in the shade in the afternoon. Their dappled fur blends right in with patches of light and shade.

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 in Hwange national park, Zimbabwe

Several puppies were playing with each other near the log while older dogs stood guard. 

Painted dogs in Hwange national park, Zimbabwe

The pups looked about half the size of the adults, but with exactly the same coloration.

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.

Painted dogs in Hwange national park, Zimbabwe

A bright orange collar makes them highly visible to us (and othe predators?)

Painted dog conservation project, Hwange park, Zimbabwe

Through anti-poaching patrols, education of young children in the area, and research focused on dog movement, habitat requirements, and prey base, the PDC project has been able to reduce mortality, rehabilitate and release injured individuals, and contribute to the longevity of this endangered species in this area.

Painted dog conservation project, Hwange park, Zimbabwe

You don’t see this road sign every day!

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