When children become interested in wildlife and conservation, it’s not only extremely heart-warming but also so encouraging to see the next generation getting involved from such a young age.
This is why we were so touched when we recently received an essay about African wild dogs written by one of our guests due to visit the lodge soon, Hope Mckay. At just 12 years old, Hope has already developed a keen interest in wildlife conservation. Her mum, Lorna, said: “Hope’s excitement about the reserve, our stay, and adventure in South Africa has been hugely increased by having a personal interest in the pack, it is lovely to watch her interest in conservation grow.”
Here is Hope’s essay:
Endangered Species: The African Wild Dog
“The Lycaon Pictus more commonly called the Painted Wolf or wild dog, are the second most endangered carnivore on the planet, with approximately only 5000 left in the wild.
Wild dogs live in forest, grassland and desert areas. The largest population is found in Southern Africa and in smaller numbers the southern part of East Africa but are rarely seen due to their lack of numbers.
Wild dog’s scientific name is Lycaon Pictus meaning painted wolf because of their mottled fur with black, brown, yellow and white colourings. Their coats are unique which helps tell them apart. Wild dogs have long legs, they only have four toes on their front feet whilst other dogs have five. Wild dogs are 29.5-43 inches tall and weigh between 39.5-79 pounds. Their life span is 11 years. Even though their names are wild dogs or painted wolfs they are actually not dogs or wolves they belong to the Canidae family. This family contains dog-like carnivores.
Fight for Survival
Wild dogs are very sociable towards each other and live in packs of six to twenty and their alpha is a female. To find food they need to travel far distances. Wild dogs are skilled hunters they hunt in groups and communicate through a variety of vocalisations, movements, and touch to catch their prey. Their prey includes wildebeest, antelope, warthogs, rats and birds. Wild dogs have one of the highest hunting success rates with 85% success. They sometimes find it hard to keep their kill because other predators try to steal it like lions, cheetahs, leopards, and hyenas. These predators also kill wild dogs they are their predators. The reason why these predators steal food from the wild dogs is that wild dogs hunt in such a unique way which gives them more chance of catching their prey. So, the other predators don’t have to try as hard and can just take the kill from the wild dogs. Once their packs alpha dies the pack splits up to make new ones.
Wild Dogs are endangered
Wild dogs are the second most endangered carnivore on the planet. This is because of multiple reasons. Habitat loss because of farmers gaining more land. They sometimes come into human contact so they can get diseases from domestic dogs like rabies. Farmers are a big problem because they kill wild dogs and blame them for attacks on livestock. They are sometimes shot or poisoned as well. Wild dogs are already extinct from northern Africa. The best way to increase wild dog numbers is to stop habitat fragmentation which is a large continuous habitat broken into smaller patches which decrease the area for available prey this is caused by increased human activities such as farming and construction.
I am going to South Africa in the summer and I am hoping to see Wild Dogs, but it is unlikely because of the lack of numbers. One of the game reserves I am going to is The Manyoni private game reserve in KwaZulu Natal. Manyoni has lots of conservation initiatives that focus on the protection of endangered animals, this includes wild dogs. The reserve is determined to increase the numbers of wild dogs and help them to survive because there are less than 400 wild dogs left in South Africa. Manyoni reserve has recently introduced a new pack of wild dogs hoping to give them the best chance of survival. They bonded 3 of their female dogs with male dogs from another local reserve in Zululand for 3 months. In February of this year they released the new pack into the reserve. The local Zulu Indunas (chiefs) were invited and given the opportunity to name the pack. They called the pack Siyavikela which in Zulu means “we protect”. I will be staying in the reserve at the Rhino River Lodge in July and I am really looking forward to meeting the local rangers and learning about how the pack is getting on. This is winter in South Africa so wild dogs are rarely seen as it is denning season where if the pack have pups, they will stay within their den to look after them. I would have to be very lucky to get to see any of them but if they do have pups, I will be very happy, and might just have to visit again in summer.
To finish wild dogs are amazing animals because of their appearance, hunting techniques and more. We must remember that their numbers are going down and they might not be here on this planet soon. We can help the wild dogs and other endangered animals by raising awareness and charitable donations.”
Written by Hope McKay, 12 years old