African wild dog in Swahili: mbwa mwitu (Lycaon pictus)
Shoulder height: 70 cm; weight: 25 kg. Also known as the African hunting dog or painted dog, the wild dog is distinguished from other African canids by its large size and cryptic black, brown and cream coat. Highly sociable, living in packs of up to 20 animals, the wild dog is a ferocious hunter that literally tears apart its prey on the run. Threatened with extinction as a result of its susceptibility to diseases spread by domestic dogs, it has become extinct or very rare in several areas where it was formerly abundant, for instance in the Serengeti and most other reserves in northern Tanzania. The global population around 6,000 wild dogs – an increase of 50% since the turn of the millennium – is spread across much of eastern and southern Africa, but the Selous Game Reserve is the most important stronghold (estimated population 1,300) and Ruaha National Park also hosts a viable population. The one place in northern Tanzania where wild dogs have been reintroduced is Mkomazi National Park, where a recently reintroduced population is thriving, though seldom seen by visitors. Wild dogs have been reported denning in Loliondo annually since 2008, and scattered sightings in Tarangire, Lake Manyara and the northern Serengeti suggest that this endangered creature is gradually recolonising the northern safari circuit.