Photo of the Month: African Painted Dog

By Megan Runquist Holmstedt

African Painted Dogs; PHOTO CREDIT: Jamie Pham

African Painted Dogs; PHOTO CREDIT: Jamie Pham

Status: African painted dogs, also known as wild dogs or painted wolves, are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to habitat loss and fragmentation, human activity (i.e., poaching, vehicular traffic, and conflict with livestock farmers), and infectious diseases such as rabies and distemper. It is estimated that there are 3,000-6,000 of these dogs living in the wild.

Habitat: Though they once ranged throughout sub-Saharan Africa, painted dogs now inhabit the scrub savannas, grassy plains, and lightly wooded areas in scattered pockets of southern and eastern Africa, primarily in Tanzania, Botswana, western Zimbabwe and Zambia, and eastern Namibia. They have nearly disappeared from north and west Africa. Packs are nomadic and rarely stay in one place for more than a day, except when there are pups too young to travel.

Diet: These canines are generalist predators with exceptional eyesight, hearing, sense of smell, and a hunting success rate of 70-90%, making them the most effective hunters in Africa. They use coordinated hunting techniques to take down impala, kudu, gazelle, wildebeest, duiker, other hoofstock, and even rodents when larger prey isn’t available. These dogs are powerful runners with great endurance; they can reach speeds of at least 30 mph for up to an hour.

African painted dogs live in family groups of two to 20 or more members, all of which help care for the dominant pair’s pups; this includes babysitting and feeding regurgitated meat. Unlike most canines, painted dog pups are given first dibs at meals.

The Zoo’s three African painted dogs are siblings–two sisters and a brother–and can be seen on exhibit near Gorilla Grill.