Monday, July 28, 2008

African Wild Dog

*Note: Text and all photos in all Kenya posts are by Shawn Billerman unless otherwise noted.

Africa is home to a number of large carnivores, including several species of Felids, as well as multiple species of Canids, including the familiar genus Canis (Jackals), and the African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus). The African Wild Dog is a rare and declining species, and is listed by the IUCN as Endangered (Source). Like the Grey Wolf (Canis lupus), Wild Dogs hunt in packs, preying primarily on gazelle and zebra. According to the AMNH (Source), Wild Dogs are the "most endangered" of African carnivores. In addition to being persecuted by humans trying to protect their livestock, the Wild Dog is especially susceptible to diseases, such as rabies and mange which is spread by domestic dogs. Due to its status, there are many groups and researchers studying these spectacular animals. One particular group is based at Mpala: the Samburu-Laikipia Wild Dog Project. This project is aiming to study how Wild Dogs and humans and their livestock can coexist in an increasingly crowed landscape. In addition, the group aims to determine how dogs move in the landscape, and how ecotourism may be used as an incentive to local people to protect the dogs. The Laikipia district in Kenya is particularly famous for its Wild Dogs, as the dogs have recently repopulated the district after being extirpated. Although many threats face the African Wild Dog, the outlook is promising.

On one particular day, about 6 or 7 days into our class, we were neck deep in writing up projects. It was that one lucky day when we had the opportunity to work on three papers at once, in three different groups. Just as we were sitting down to work, Dustin walks in with some news: he tells us that we have two options at this point in time, 1) continue writing our papers, which we thought was the only option, or.... 2) go see a pack of 17 Wild Dogs, including pups. There was a momentary silence, as everyone in the room just stares, somewhat stunned, then all at once, everyone jumps up and races for the vans. Of course, we ended up sitting in the van for 10 minutes before we finally left, but we were on our way to try and track down this pack of Wild Dogs.

We didn't have to drive very far. This group of Wild Dogs was being studies by the Wild Dog Project, and known to be spending a lot of time uphill from the Center, and was thought to have a den nearby. After some interesting maneuvering around Acacias and across some questionable "roads," we soon found ourselves looking upon the pack of Wild Dogs. Now, enough words, here are a small fraction of the pictures I took while we spent nearly an hour watching this group.

Photos of African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus). Note, in the 3rd picture from top, the dog is collared.

Van one intently photographing the pack; habitat where we saw the Wild Dogs: this location was just above our tented camp (early the morning we saw the dogs (4am early), camp staff and some students heard the dogs from camp)


  1. Dear Slybird,
    i really liked your writing on the african wild dogs i am doing an essay for school about them anyway thank you for some information

  2. these photos are amazing