African wild dogs: Pups in Zululand
It's about time: Zululand's wild dogs pups are coming out of their den! In our blog article you can learn more about reproduction and offspring of African wild dogs.
Throughout the country, the wild dog puppies are slowly coming out of their den! African wild dogs are an intelligent and social species that lives in packs. The herd size can vary a lot. Some packs consist of only a few dogs, while other packs include up to 30 animals, which often turns out to be a great advantage when it comes to hunting.
Wild dogs and family selection
Wild dogs have developed a cooperative reproductive strategy in which only the alpha female and male reproduce. The rest of the pack helps raise the puppies (a cooperative form of reproduction called 'kinship selection'). In rare cases also the beta female may give birth to wild dogs which, however, often don’t survive since the pack is focused on the descendants of the alpha pair.
Birth in the den
Wild dog puppies are usually born between May and August and spend the first three months of their lifes in a den built by other cave-dwelling species and adapted by the pack to their own needs. The den offers warmth and protection to the vulnerable puppies. The size of the litter is dependent on the size of the pack as well as on the age of the pregnant female. However, usually 6 to 10 kids are born per litter. Due to robbery and limited resources, it is often not possible for all wild dog puppies to survive.
During the time, that the young spend in the den or when they are finally able to move on with the pack, often a second den is looked for. The original building is then already full of fleas and smelly and therefore easier to find for attackers. Moving to a new den is therefore necessary in order to offer the puppies a better chance of survival.
After about 8 weeks the puppies start to leave their home for a short time and during this time it is often possible for volunteers to see them for the first time – a unique experience!