By Obert Siamilandu
At one time, nearly 500,000 wild dogs roamed the continent, but today there are only 7,000 of them left.
With numbers massively reduced due to encroaching agricultural activities, there is a lack of genetic variation and a new strand of canine distemper further threatens the species.
The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) says habitat fragmentation and human-wildlife conflict have driven wild dogs to near extinction.
“We need your commitment to raise awareness of the threats facing these colorful carnivores now,” the foundation said in a statement.
“There are only about 6,600 left in the wild, but AWF is working to increase their numbers by expanding undisturbed wild areas where dogs can roam, working with farmers to protect livestock, and more.
“Wild dogs are efficient hunters, with a hunting success rate of almost 80%. This makes it the third most productive hunter in the wild.
African wild dogs are said to be one of the three most effective hunting animals in Africa and are found in most parts of the continent except for the drier northern deserts and denser forests of the southern tip.
As some of the most social and vocal animals roaming the earth today, the African wild dog was a critical species for maintaining biodiversity on the African plains.
The African wild dog has been listed as an endangered species since 1990, and the species may soon be listed as critically endangered.
Their dwindling range is now in the southern half of the continent.
In Zimbabwe, poachers are endangering wild dogs in Hwange National Park.
With limited employment opportunities and sporadic rainfall that negatively impacts agricultural yields; bushmeat hunting has grown in popularity in recent years as a means of earning a living.
As a result, poachers use metal snares, which kill animals indiscriminately. Wild dogs are particularly vulnerable to injury or death from traps because they cover a lot of ground while hunting and travel more than 12 miles per day on average.
In addition to traps, poachers sometimes poison water sources with cyanide.
They normally target elephants for their ivory but kill a variety of other species in the process, including the African wild dog.
The range of the African wild dog, as described by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, is shrinking every day as humans gain more land and push the animals into smaller territories and less desirable.
Their large, round ears facilitate the release of body heat and differentiate them from their wolf ancestors.