Adult dholes, (sometimes known as red dogs, Asiatic wild dogs or Indian wild dogs) typically have a sandy russet colour coat with a paler underside and a black-tipped bushy tail. Dholes have a relatively short, broad muzzle.
(Single Dhole on rock image above by B-J Clow)
Once wide spread throughout Asia there have been no recent confirmed reports of dholes from Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan or the Korean peninsula. Their status in China is unclear but they might be clinging on in extreme southern parts of the country. Their largest stronghold is in India, with fragmented populations still found in Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Lao, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand.
Similar to many other species in the dog family, the dhole has a gestation period of 60-62 days. They usually give birth to large litters, between 5 and 10 pups, although a litter of 12 has been reported. Dholes can have as many as 16 mammae (teats), more than any other canid species, so they can feed their large brood. A dhole pack is an extended family unit of between 5 and 20 animals, and during the pup-rearing season other members will bring food back to the lactating mothers and their young.
Dholes have an almost wholly carnivorous diet (known as hypercarnivory) and adaptations in their dentistry set them apart from others in the dog family which have a more varied omnivorous diet. Dholes primarily hunt in packs for large ungulates, involving nearly all the adults within a pack. If hunting alone they will hunt smaller mammals. Dholes have evolved different hunting strategies to overcome hunting in thick scrub – either moving through scrub in an extended line, or encircling dense vegetation to attack any prey that are flushed out by other members of the pack. Dholes communicate with other pack members using a repertoire of high-pitched sounds which can be heard through the thick vegetation. Dholes are not aggressive towards other pack members when feeding but they do eat fast, getting through up to 1 kg of meat each in just 4 minutes.
Dholes are found in a wide variety of habitat types, including grassland-scrub-forest mosaics, tropical forest and even in alpine steppe reaching altitudes of 3,000 metres above sea level.
Main threats to the species include ongoing habitat loss, lack of prey, competition for food and space from other wild predators, persecution by humans and probably disease transfer from domestic dogs.
Lack of prey appears to be a key problem in Lao, Cambodia and Vietnam where many large ungulates species have been reduced to low numbers.
Additionally large tracts of natural wilderness have become rare in many southern Asian countries where dholes were once found.
Persecution of the species also still occurs throughout much of its range too. For example, during one radio-tracking study in Central India in 2000, 16 of the 24 dholes in one pack died suddenly from strychnine poisoning.
- Raise awareness about the species within local communities, as well as with national governments and international organisations.
- Assess the level of conflict between dholes and people, and implement measures to reduce this conflict
- Maintain and increase their natural prey base.
- Restore and protect forest habitat from further loss and fragmentation.
Ambika Pd. Khatiwada, Nepal
Small Worldwide Grant
Jan Kamler, Cambodia
Small Worldwide Grant
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