The Wild Dogs of Namibia


The African wild dog or Lycaon pictus is truly one of nature’s wonders. Its intelligence, social pack structure and beauty make it one of the most interesting animals to track and view on safari. Namibian conservation groups are currently trying to bring these canines back from the brink of extinction and now you can help. 

Getting to know the African wild dog

Once these animals could be found in over 39 countries across the African continent with a population of more than 500 000. Now, however, estimates put the population of the African wild dog between 3000 and 5000 spread across just 14 to 25 countries in Africa.

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Two young dogs.
(Image via AfriCat)

There are many reasons for this dramatic decline in numbers: Human encroachment, poaching, and competition from larger predators have all played their part in decimating the population of these animals.

As a result of these factors the African wild dog is the fifth most endangered mammal in Africa. It is also the second most endangered predator on the continent and with numbers dangerously low it has been declared endangered and conservation efforts have slowly been increased.

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A cool drink of water on a typically hot day.
(Image via Lamb and Serpent)  

The African wild dogs are some of nature’s most well adapted predators and when a pack goes on a hunt they have over an 80% chance of making a kill. This figure is all the more impressive when you consider that lions, often thought to be excellent hunters, have a success ratio of about 30% on each hunt they begin.

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The dogs play, live and hunt together.
(Image via AfriCat)  

A large part of their hunting successes and social hierarchies stem from their ability to effectively communicate with one another using strange chirp-like calls that help co-ordinate their activities.

Members of a pack will vocalize to help coordinate their movements.

It is rare to see the dogs on a hunt but there have been a few documentaries that have managed to capture this amazing feat of pack hunting. Click here to watch the BBC’s Planet Earth team capture an amazing wild dog hunt in the Okavango.

Namibia’s Wild Dogs

Namibia has had a consistently critically low population of wild dogs and current estimates put their numbers anywhere between 300 and 600. As such the conservation of these rare animals is fast becoming a priority for conservation groups in Namibia.

Two organisations stand out in Namibia in their efforts to protect these endangered animals. They are N/a’an ku sê and the AfriCat Foundation at Okonjima private game reserve. Each organisation has different but complimentary programs aimed at getting people to better understand African wild dogs and thus ensure their survival.

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This trio is trying to beat the Namibia heat under the shade of a small tree.

N/a’an ku sê

N/a’an ku sê is a privately run foundation that operates just outside Windhoek and its aim is to help with any and all conservation efforts in Namibia. One of their points of pride is their wild dog program. The foundations maintains a massive enclosure on their premises that houses several wild dogs that were rescued as pups after their mother died.

These dogs now live their lives within their special reserve as they are unfortunately unfit to be put back in the wild. The dogs are observed within their enclosure so that the team at N/a’an ku sê can learn more about the social structures and behavioural patterns of these enigmatic animals. The upside to their being in captivity is that guests can get an up close and personal encounter (behind a fence of course!) with the dogs.

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Wild dogs surveying their enclosure at N/a’an ku sê.

The captive population of wild dogs can also be used as an invaluable genetic reserve that may one day help to repopulate the wild with these animals. The foundation also hopes that by better understanding the way in which the African wild dog behaves they will be able to educate farmers and locals all over the country on how best to live in sympathy with the dogs.

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A young male wild dog takes a breather.
(Image via AfriCat)

On the Carnivore Tour offered at the lodge you will not only learn about and see N/a’an ku sê’s pack of African wild dogs but you will also get a chance to observe (and sometimes interact with) lion, leopard, baboons, caracal and cheetahs. The tour is one-of-a-kind and is a must for conservation enthusiasts. All proceeds from these tours go straight back into helping animal conservation projects around Namibia.

You can also help support the projects at N/a’an ku sê by visiting their page here, or you can take part in one of their many and world-renowned volunteer programs by clicking here.

AfriCat

AfriCat has been in operation since 1993 and in that time the organisation has been rescuing, rehabilitating and re-releasing predators onto the Okonjima nature reserve in central and northern Namibia. Here they lead natural lives until they day they move on from this world.

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The program has successfully rehabilitated many African wild dogs.
See Raine, Rex, and Ricky.
(Image via AfriCat)

The foundation is only able to keep up their good work because of the money they bring in from tourists doing safaris and other activities in the park as well as through their highly effective adoption and donation programs.

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Join the pack today.
(Image via AfriCat)

AfriCat release a yearly report on the status of African wild dog conservation and you can read it here and see the good work that is being done across Namibia by the foundation and other conservation groups.

Going Forward

A unique challenge in the conservation of wild dogs is that a pack needs vast tracts of land in which to roam in order to survive and thrive. Most national parks in Africa, however, are too small for this and as a result many of the packs roam onto unprotected land and farmlands.

The resulting human/animal conflicts that result from the roaming packs of wild dogs have been largely responsible for the rapid decline in their numbers over the last few decades. The wild dog also suffers from a bad (and ungrounded) reputation of being a ferocious killer and as such is often hunted without mercy by overzealous farmers trying to protect their livestock.

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Here’s looking at you!
(Image via William Burrard-Lucas via WWF)

Through organisations like AfriCat and N/a’an ku sê we can all help in reversing the decline in their numbers and ensure that future generations will be able to witness these remarkable beasts in their natural environments.

Whether you donate your time or your money both are completely appreciated and welcome.

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A lone male looks to the horizon
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