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One of the great Gorongosa success stories is the re-introduction of African wild dogs (also known as painted wolves, Cape hunting dogs and in Mozambique, mabecas) to the Park. These are one of the world’s most endangered mammals. If you are on this page you probably know that it’s perhaps the most sought-after species sighting by serious wildlife enthusiasts visiting the Kruger National Park. Gorongosa has currently has five packs of wild dogs, and in 2021, an additional 42 pups were born. The dogs, along with growing lion and leopard populations will play a critical role in management of the large numbers of herbivores, and thus the broad ecology of the Park.

Wild dog pack resting in the shade –– southern Kruger National Park

Check the especially sharp teeth for a canid and count the toes.

Photos:Lesley Lane –– Hamilton-Fynch

We have worked with the Gorongosa Project for several years on a range of documents, displays and books. So much so we feel part of the team and are as excited at this success as if we were directly involved. The project has achieved astounding success in the rehabilitation of the Gorongosa National Park. The wildlife was decimated through years of conflict losing over 90% of its large mammals. The 2020 aerial survey counted over 100 000 large mammals. Way to go team Gorongosa!

Some things you may not know, open a window onto the fascinating lives of these animals. They live always in packs, usually around 12 animals, but packs can become as large as 30 or even 40 dogs. Usually only one alpha pair breeds and all the males in a pack are brothers and all the females are sisters. However, often other pairs will also breed but the alpha pair will produce by far the most pups. The dogs cooperate in hunting, and the non-breeding dogs take turns hunting with the pack, guarding the den when there are pups, or when dogs may be unwell, injured and unable to hunt. Endurance, fast running, cooperation and sharp, specialised teeth make the dogs effective hunters. Thought be an adaptation to running, the dogs have four toes on all feet, most domestic dogs have five on the front feet and four on the rear; not many people know that!

All the dogs will clean the pups. Pups, usually about 10 or 12, but sometimes up to 20, are born in the early winter at the end of the impala (in South Africa –– it all depends on the dog’s preferred antelope prey) breeding season. Many impala rams are exhausted after the extended rutting period during which they are constantly defending territory and right to mate with the ewes. This makes them much easier prey for the dogs and the timing ensures that the pups are well fed.

For some years, some populations have been in decline largely due to canine distemper. Some packs have been successfully vaccinated although serious adverse effects have been seen in some pups.

Vis-a-vis canine distemper:

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