Unexpected Destinations for Wild Dogs
We love African Wild Dogs here at Pictus Safaris - as you might have noticed from our name and logo! These lovable canids should be regarded as a real treat for anyone who comes across them on safari, with their complex social structure and extraordinary hunting success rate endearing them to many. Sadly, Wild Dogs (also known as Painted Wolves or Hunting Dogs) have long been persecuted by landowners and pastoralists, decimating their population in the wild. With widespread habitat loss and sporadic outbreaks of disease also contributing to the decline of this iconic predator, visitors should count themselves lucky to encounter these beautiful animals anywhere in Africa.
However, there are a few locations where Wild Dog sightings are particularly special. They are not perhaps the finest destinations for such sightings (see our blog here for a countdown of those areas), but they are certainly some of the most important. With their expansive ranges and astonishing ability to survive even in inhospitable areas, small fragmented populations of Wild Dogs persist across areas of Africa where they are heavily persecuted. These remarkable packs are of huge conservation value, and we highly recommend that your next safari is spent trying to locate one of these hardy groups of dogs - your visit, and the investment you bring, could be the difference between these isolated populations surviving or fading away.
Many of these remote destinations are little-known, and several do not provide the kind of habitat one typical associates with Wild Dogs. Take a look below at our list of these exceptional destinations, and let us know which one you would most like to visit!
10. Manda National Park, Chad
Wild Dog Population: c.90
Wild Dog Density: 1 dog per 12.7 sq/km
Overview: Chad is a land of incredible diversity, from the extraordinary wildlife of Zakouma National Park to the stunning landscapes of Ennedi. Whilst Zakouma and Ennedi are increasingly attracting foreign visitors, Manda National Park remains an overlooked corner of this fabulous area of Africa. Established in 1965, this park was initially set aside primarily to protect the fragile population of the world's largest antelope, the Giant Eland. Sadly, Giant Eland are no longer found in Manda - this species was one of the many casualties of rampant poaching and pastoralism throughout Chad in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s. Unlike in Zakouma, this situation continues in Manda, with the park dominated by herdsmen and internally-displaced people. This means that much of the wildlife in this beautiful park, nestled on the banks of the Chari River, is now absent - no longer can Bush Elephant, Cheetah or Lion be found here.
However, there is a small silver lining. The absence of larger predators has created a niche which, remarkably, is now filled by a small but stable population of African Wild Dogs. Whilst visits to the park are rare, aerial surveys have confirmed the continued presence of Painted Wolves here, apparently subsisting on the few remaining antelope, as well as the livestock of nomadic herdsmen. As Chad grows as a safari destination, it is a dear hope of ours that Manda can be better protected in future, to allow these Wild Dogs to thrive here.
How to Get There: Manda National Park is remote, but it is now accessible thanks to recent improvements in the security situation in Chad. Whilst Pictus Safaris do not currently include Manda on our overland tour to Chad, we can arrange private tours to Manda. Contact us at email@example.com for more information.
9. Lag Badana National Park, Somalia
Wild Dog Population: c.50
Wild Dog Density: 1 dog per 66.8 sq/km
Overview: Somalia is, unsurprisingly, not high on many people's lists of 'must-visit' safari destinations. This is a great shame, as Somalia can offer a wide array of habitats. In the north and west, including the autonomous area of Somaliland, dry mountainous areas are home to rare antelope including Beira. In the dry riverbeds of the interior, Dibatag and other unusual species persist. But it is in the south that the greatest interest for safari-lovers lies. The Lag Badana (also known as Bushbush) national park is dominated by dry savannah and woodland, contiguous with the northern wildernesses of Kenya. Whilst instability, poaching and pastoralism in this area is rampant, it is suspected that populations of wildlife that persist here include Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, Caracal and Bush Elephant. Even African Wild Dog are now known to have survived here, with 10-15 packs reported to regularly predate on livestock in the park. A particular hotspot appears to be the coastal plains of Manaaraani, where both Cheetah and Wild Dog are occasionally observed, as well as Spotted Hyena, Lion and Caracal.
How to Get There: Sadly, terrorist activity means that Lag Badana cannot be safely visited at the moment.
8. Luengue-Luiana National Park, Angola
Wild Dog Population: c.600
Wild Dog Density: 1 dog per 37.7 sq/km
Overview: Angola is a land of mystery, having been hidden from view for much of the last few decades by civil war and political instability. The country is now accessible, although extremely expensive to visit, and many of its spectacles are simply breathtaking. From towering inselbergs to panoramic waterfalls, Angola has it all. There's a surprising amount of wildlife across the country, and its centrepiece is the extremely remote Luengue-Luiana National park, in the far south-east of this sprawling wilderness. Contiguous with Namibia and Zambia, this region is contiguous with the unparalleled safari destinations of Northern Botswana and Zimbabwe and, although wildlife densities are lower here due to past instability and poaching, Luengue-Luiana has much to offer. Bush Elephant, Cheetah, Lion and Leopard can all, with luck, be seen in this area dotted by mopani woodland and wetlands. Perhaps most surprising is a remarkable population of Wild Dogs that have been recorded in the riverine areas of the park - whilst this reserve is not easily reached or explored, it is certainly worth a visit!
How to Get There: Luengue-Luiana is not easy to reach from elsewhere in Angola, particularly with a dire road network. The easiest route may be through the Caprivi Strip of Namibia, and we are planning to offer this as an optional extension to our trip through remote Namibia in 2023.
7. Harenna Forest, Ethiopia
Wild Dog Population: c.40
Wild Dog Density: 1 dog per 55.5 sq/km
Overview: Ethiopia is truly a mammal-watcher's paradise - and it's not bad for birders either! Home to one of the world's largest mammal migrations when hordes of White-Eared Kob arrive in Gambella National Park from neighbouring South Sudan, as well as the remote desert of the Danakil Depression and the rugged Simien Mountains, there is perhaps no country with as much variety in Africa.
Still, it is a surprise to many to learn that Ethiopia retains a viable population of African Wild Dogs - in fact, there are several packs dotted across the country. Recent evidence suggests packs may persist in Omo-Mago National Park, Stephanie Wildlife Sanctuary and several unprotected areas around the southern border with Kenya. Perhaps the most surprising home to Wild Dogs in Ethiopia is the dense Harenna Forest. Situated within Bale Mountains National Park, and just to the south of the famous Sanetti Plateau and its thriving population of Ethiopian Wolves, Harenna is not exactly prime Wild Dog habitat. However, the lack of human habitation, relatively abundant prey populations and a low density of Leopard and Lion means that at least one pack of dogs traverses this forest to this day. Sightings are rare due to the thick jungle, but lucky visitors may get a glimpse of these dogs as they patrol the road network early in the morning.
How to Get There: There are plenty of operators in Bale Mountains National Park, but most focus on the Ethiopian Wolves of the Sanetti Plateau. We are happy to recommend several of these operators who can offer itineraries tailored to locating Wild Dogs, or other large predators, in Harenna Forest - just contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
6. Southern National Park, South Sudan
Wild Dog Population: c.20
Wild Dog Density: 1 dog per 1,150 sq/km
Overview: South Sudan has bags of potential as a safari destination, which has sadly remained out of reach for much of this young country's history, as a result of conflict and civil unrest. The vast wetland in the heart of the country, known as the 'Sudd', remains perhaps the most exciting birding destination on the continent. The Boma-Bandingilo ecosystem still supports thousands of Nile Lechwe, Mongalla Gazelle and White-Eared Kob. And the newest revelation from South Sudan has been the identification of a relatively in-tact ecosystem in Southern National Park and its surrounds. An extensive camera-trapping programme in the late 2010s identified Southern NP and its surrounds as being home to rare mammals including Bongo, Giant Eland and Yellow-Backed Duiker. One of the most surprising finds was a pack of African Wild Dogs, a real boon given that the area has seen significant conflict, poaching and pastoralism, and the chances of this species surviving seemed slim. It is likely that this small population ranges a huge area, so any sighting would require huge amounts of luck, but it is extremely exciting to know that Wild Dogs live on in this special wilderness.
How to Get There: Pictus Safaris are at the early stages of planning a 2022 tour to Southern National Park. If you would like to be added to the waitlist for this tour, do contact us email@example.com.
5. Bicuar National Park, Angola
Wild Dog Population: c.50
Wild Dog Density: 1 dog per 158 sq/km
Overview: Bicuar could be one of the most poorly-known national parks in all of Africa. Situated in the remote south-western corner of Angola, and contiguous with Mupa National Park, it is the only in the last decade that the wildlife of this park has been systematically surveyed. The findings of these surveys were both remarkable and exciting. Despite no real management, due to civil war, for much of the latter half of the 20th century, populations of Bush Elephant, Leopard and even Caracal persist here. A small but stable population of African Wild Dogs was also identified and, incredibly, these dogs are relaxed around vehicles and regularly seen by park staff. These packs, though, are highly vulnerable, due to their isolation from other populations of Wild Dogs - their nearest cousins are probably in Luengue-Luiana (see entry 8) or northern Namibia (see entry 3).
How to Get There: Pictus Safaris are operating an 'Angola Adventure' small-group safari to Angola in September 2022, visiting Bicuar National Park, as well as Iona National Park, Quiçama National Park and Cangandala National Park. Exact dates and prices are to be confirmed, but to be added to the waitlist for this ground-breaking tour, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
4. Chinko Nature Reserve, Central African Republic
Wild Dog Population: c.75
Wild Dog Density: 1 dog per 234.7 sq/km
Overview: At Pictus Safaris, we believe that Chinko is the next big thing in adventure tourism and remote safari destinations on the continent. Mind-bogglingly inaccessible and resoundingly wild, Chinko has been protected by remarkable work done by conservationists and concession owners over many years. Whilst wildlife densities in this remote, thickly-forested paradise have been negatively impacted by the presence of cattle-herders and poachers, there remain pockets of many rare mammals, including Chimpanzee, Bongo, Giant Eland and African Golden Cat. Situated on the boundary between dense jungle and open savanna, species co-exist here that rarely survive in the same areas, and some species are found in habitats they would not normally thrive in. African Wild Dogs, for example, are known to den in dense rainforest, a behaviour rarely observed. Extensive camera-trapping has revealed a viable population of Wild Dogs, and in this hugely exciting destination, it is believed that several hundred African Wild Dogs could be present here with sustained protection.
How to Get There: Pictus Safaris exclusively offer a 'Dark Heart of Africa' small-group safari to Chinko, running in April 2022. This tour runs for seven nights, and is priced at £14,995 per person.
3. Khaudum National Park, Namibia
Wild Dog Population: c.200
Wild Dog Density: 1 dog per 19.2 sq/km
Overview: When one thinks of Namibian safaris, Etosha normally springs to mind. Whilst Etosha does have much to offer, we at Pictus Safaris believe that the remote wilderness of Khaudum National Park should also be considered a premier safari destination. Situated in the north-eastern corner of Namibia, Khaudum is a dry, seemingly inhospitable destination famed for its grumpy population of Bush Elephants and difficult driving conditions. What fewer people know, though, is that Khaudum, along with Bwabwata, is the stronghold for African Wild Dogs in Namibia. The area around Khaudum Camp, in particular, can offer exceptional sightings of this elusive carnivore. In such a remote and beautiful park, these sightings are exhilarating and satisfying and, as such, we cannot recommend a visit to Khaudum highly enough.
How to Get There: Pictus Safaris will soon be offering a tour across the north of Namibia, including visits to Khaudum, Damaraland, Etosha, Bwabwata and Nkasa Rupara. To secure a place on our waitlist, contact us now at email@example.com.
2. Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique
Wild Dog Population: c.100
Wild Dog Density: 1 dog per 37.7 sq/km
Overview: Gorongosa is breath-takingly beautiful. With an astonishing variety of landscapes, from open plains filled with waterbuck to dense riverine forest teeming with birdlife, one can journey from the Mara to Selous within half an hour in Gorongosa. Nestled around Lake Urema in central Mozambique, Gorongosa was devastated by civil war and left in ruins. A stirring and admirable conservation effort has restored Gorongosa to much of its former glory, and visitors can expect to see healthy populations of Lion, Bush Elephant and Serval, as well as possible encounters with Leopard and the rare Selous' Zebra. The highlight of any visit to Gorongosa, though, must be the thriving population of African Wild Dogs, now numbering over 80 after an initial translocation just two years ago. Gorongosa is perhaps the best destination in all of Africa right now for sightings of puppies at close quarters.
How to Get There: Gorongosa is one of Pictus Safaris' most popular destinations, and we will be running a September 2021 'Wild Dog Delights' small-group safari, with a specific focus on locating and photographing Wild Dog puppies.
1. Niokolo-Koba National Park, Senegal
Wild Dog Population: c.50
Wild Dog Density: 1 dog per 182.6 sq/km
Overview: Niokolo-Koba is truly magical. One of the very few surviving wilderness areas in West Africa, this national park is under intense pressure from mining and poaching, but is still home to a range of species that have survived against all the odds. Lions and Leopards, although elusive, still occur here in good numbers. A tiny population of Bush Elephants even persists in the south of the park, in an area also home to ground-dwelling Chimpanzees. The vanishingly rare Western Giant Eland is also making its last stand here. Our favourite surviving residents of Niokolo-Koba, though, are the resilient and beautiful African Wild Dogs, typically found just outside the main game-viewing routes in areas such as the Grand Mirador or Lingue-Kountou.
Unfortunately, there is no telling how much longer Niokolo-Koba will be able to support Wild Dogs - on Pictus Safaris' most recent tour, evidence of poaching in this jewel of a national park was rife, and mining operations in sensitive areas were continuing apace. We recommend visiting as soon as possible!
How to Get There: Pictus Safaris will be running a tour to Senegal in late 2022, visiting Niokolo-Koba as well as the Casamance and the Saloum Delta. Exact dates and prices are yet to be confirmed, but contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to secure your place now.
Which of these destinations would you love to visit most? Have you been to any of them before? Let us know in the comments!