Africa wild dogs

Africa wild dogs spotted in Kidepo

The Africa wild dogs in Uganda were last seen in Narus valley – Kidepo national park in the 1980s. The predators were believed to be locally extinct until a pair was recorded again on June 26, 2023. This was reported by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) field ranger Gilbert Manyimanyi, who saw them in Narus valley.

They seemed to have been hunting and quickly got out of his sight. With a smartphone he tried to take but the pictures are unclear. The sightings aroused the curiosity of UWA rangers who promised to track and follow them up. Hopefully they will collect some data vital for conservation and get some better images too.

Besides the wild dogs, other animals that got extinct from Kidepo include black and white rhinos and white-eared kobs. The population of Nubian giraffes (formerly Rothschild’s giraffes) was also greatly poached to near extinction. When the country was still in struggles of the conflicts after independence in the 1970s and 80s, widespread poaching took a toll on Uganda’s wildlife heritage.

In particular, Kidepo and the neighboring mount Moroto were occupied by former president Idi Amin’s soldiers. Even though the park was established in 1962, effective law enforcement was still lacking. Even after Uganda gained some freedom from civil wars in 1986, Kidepo valley national park remained isolated and difficult to reach and conserve.

The protected area is located 700 km (13-hour drive) north west of Kampala city in the remote semi-arid Karamoja region along the border with South Sudan and Kenya’s Turkan county. Karamoja is inhabited by semi nomadic pastoral groups with a rough history of cattle rustling. Many joined the army and acquired guns that were used to rustle cows against weaker and rival groups within and from the neighboring countries. As such, poaching in Kidepo to a large extent could have been done by Ugandans.

Africa wild dogs

The human-wildlife interaction in the traditional society of Karamoja is also a factor to consider in regard to extinction of wildlife. For instance, a giraffe tail was regarded as a prized possession among the Karamojong. Young boys who didn’t own many cattle would kill giraffes to offer their tails to acquire cattle and offer them for bride price. This practice was responsible for the reduction of Nubian giraffe (formerly Rothchild’s giraffe) population from about 400 to less than 5 in Kidepo alone. African wild dogs are among the fierce predators in the African wild. There’s little doubt that the locals trying to protect their livestock could have killed or poisoned dogs, eventually becoming locally extinct.

Seeing the African painted dogs again in Kidepo is exciting news and could boost safaris to Kidepo national park. However, it is not yet known how they happened to come back. While still waiting for updates, there’s a hint on the return of African wild dogs in Uganda. Kidepo valley national park in Uganda interconnects with Kidepo Game Reserve in South Sudan. The protected areas form part of the Southern Sudan-Northern Uganda Transboundary Landscape. Under this conservation plan, the two countries joined forces to effectively manage the wildlife.

Prior to this, each country was only monitoring the wildlife within their own borders. Yet, most of the wild animals tend to spend some time outside the protected areas and instinctively moving across borders. This gap is bridged by interconnecting the wildlife conservation operations and field staff from the two countries to share information regarding management of wildlife in the transborder areas. Responsibility for conservation of Kidepo Transborder Conservation Area therefore is in the hands of both countries. UWA and its partners supporting law enforcement have been instrumental in stopping illegal wildlife poaching. This could be the reason why wildlife is coming back to its former range. A few years ago, a new antelope species, the White eared kob believed extinct, was discovered alive in Narus valley and Pian Upe Wildlife reserve.

About Kidepo valley national park

The protected area covers 1,442 in a semiarid Karamoja, the driest region of Uganda. Kidepo ecosystem that forms part of the larger Somali Masai regional center of endemism. This is one of the natural biodiversity regions in Africa. Kidepo lies at the southern limits of this biome between 914 – 2,600 meters above sea level.

Much of the park lies below 1,000 meters and is a flatland with savanna grasslands containing scattered rocky kopjes and rugged volcanic mountains including Mount Morungole (2,750m), the park’s highest peak. Several rivers including Narus and Kidepo flow from the hills and drain the valleys creating seasonal and permanent swamps and water pools, gallery forests and drought resistant tree species such as red thorn (acacia gerrardii).

The landscape of Kidepo was described as Africa’s most picturesque park by Wonderlust Magazine UK. The habitats in Kidepo support a rich biodiversity including over 80 mammal and 480 bird species of which 28 mammal species are not found in the parks in Albertine rift valley in western Uganda. For instance, cheetahs, Aardwolf, side striped jackals, striped hyenas, African wild dogs, white-eared kobs, and bat-eared fox are Kidepo endemics.

Kidepo was designated an important bird area with Karamoja endemics including black breasted barbet (lybius rolleti) and Karamoja apalis. There are also species of the Sudan Guinea biome not found elsewhere in Uganda such as the  gray wren warbler (Calamonastes simplex), golden pipit (Tmetothylacus tenellus), rufous chatterer (Turdoides rubiginosus), and the little rock thrush (Monticola rufocinereus). A safari to Kidepo offers a unique wildlife viewing experience with additional hot springs, rural villages, and cultural encounters with Nilotic groups including IK, Ateker, Karamojong, and the Jie.

The African wild dogs 

Africa wild dogs

The African painted dog (lycaon pictus) is a carnivore of the Canidae family. Other creatures in this family include wolves, foxes, and jackals. In particular, the dog is a medium-sized creature that weighs between 18 and 36 kg. Standing at 60-75 cm tall with a body length of 71-112 cm, the African wild dog can attain speeds of up to 66 km/h. The dogs live in social groups of 2 to 30 individuals known for their smoothly coordinated teamwork while hunting.

This enables them to hunt and kill large prey such as buffaloes and their calves, wildebeest, bushbucks, warthogs, and gazelles. Occasionally, they also eat rodents and birds. The average lifespan of African painted dogs in the wild is 10 to 11 years.  In general, the skin of the African hunting dog is marked with spots of different colors including black and white and reddish yellow.

However, according to the Mammal Species of the World: A taxonomic and Geographic Reference, there are 5 five subspecies whose appearance slightly differ including the East African wild dog with a darker coat found in Uganda, Keyna, Tanzania, and South Sudan, the cape wild dog in South African states has more yellow and white spots, the Somali wild dog, the brightly Chadian wild dog, and the west African wild dog. The noted differences in color is the reason the animals are called by different names including African painted dog, Cape hunting dog, and African wild dog.

There are about 6,600 individuals and the population is reportedly declining across the geographic range. The main threats to their survival include habitat loss and fragmentation due to increasing human settlements around protected areas. This also means that wild dogs are easy targets by livestock farmers. In places where there’s  increasing human-wildlife interaction, the dogs are vulnerable to diseases such as rabies that are transmitted from domestic animals.


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