africa's fascinating canines make their debut on the small screen
The BBC Natural History Unit’s new documentary series Dynasties has been captivating audiences across the nation. The programme follows much-loved species like the African lion, Bengal tiger, chimpanzee and emperor penguin, but these marquee names also share the spotlight with a lesser-known member of the animal kingdom. The painted dog – also known as the painted wolf, African wild dog and African hunting dog – is a highly social canid that lives in packs of between two and 27 individuals. Once found throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, Lycaon pictus is now an endangered species. The population was estimated at just 6,600 adults in 2016, only 1,400 of which were reproducing adults.
Even in large, well-protected reserves and places where populations are stable, African painted dogs live at low population densities. As a result, sightings are more difficult to come by than they are for other species, like lions in the Masai Mara or elephants in Kruger. However, there are a number of strongholds in southern and eastern Africa where painted dogs can be seen relatively reliably – if you know where to look. Spotting these animals on the hunt or rearing their pups is a thrilling experience, and offers an alternative to safari-goers who have already ticked off the Big Five. For those who want to make painted dogs the focus of their safari, bear in mind that the shoulder season of May/June is one of the best times to see them, as this coincides with their denning season (which is great for dog-lovers and less taxing on your wallet).