Photo Credit: Jagadeesha Perumal (Dhole Conservation Fund) Dhone Conservation Fund

Dhole is an endangered wild dog. It is also known as Indian wild dog, Asiatic wild dog, red dog, or red fox. It is native to the jungles of Asia, and in deciduous woodlands and subtropical rainforests. The canine is a social animal: lives as part of a pack. One of its distinctive characteristics is its vocal calls – whining, whistling, screaming, chattering, and screaming.  

One of the leading researchers and experts on dholes is Kate Jenks, a conservation biologist. “Compared to a tiger, a Dhole is not very ‘sexy,’” noted Kate Jenks. The reason she deduced was dholes tend to get neglected by the wildlife enthusiasts and animal lovers who are usually interested in tigers and lions and other cute animals. She had worked as the Dhole (Asian Wild Dog) Project Manager in Thailand for a project initiated by Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and Kasetsart University in Thailand. She studied the ecology of dholes, and created a conservation action plan for dholes in Thailand and an updated country-wide distribution map. She had trapped and GPS-collared one dhole and one jackal.

“I have been studying dholes through graduate school and now work as a conservation biologist at the Minnesota Zoo. As a conservation biologist, I work to monitor and protect animal species around the planet. Dholes Cuon alpinus are also known as Asiatic wild dogs. They are reddish-brown in colour and weigh about 15 kg. (equivalent to a medium-sized domestic dog). Many guests at our zoo mistake our dholes on exhibit for red foxes. In some countries, dholes are directly killed by people who blame them for attacking their livestock. This is not a huge issue in Thailand. We have only received reports of a handful of chickens being taken by dholes. A greater threat is forests being cut down to expand agriculture, and people aggressively hunting sambar and snaring wild pigs – the dholes’ main food source.” –Kate Jenks, Sanctuary Nature Foundation   

Dholes open their mouth when they are in a playful mood with retracted lip and tail drooped in submission. It puckers its mouth when in a position of threatening to another animal, mouth forward in a growling snarl with the hairs on its back raised. A scared dhole has its ears lowered down and tail curled up in fear.

In India the Dhole is protected the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 which means it is it is illegal to hunt and kill dhole. At the Indira Gandhi Zoological Park in Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, the Government of India has been established a preservation and conservation centre for dholes.

Except for his handsome appearance, the wild dog has not a single redeeming feature, and no effort, fair or foul, should be spared to destroy these pests of the jungle”, observed Lt Col EG Phythian-Adams (1883-1959) referring to the red foxes or dholes. Phythian-Adams was a British hunter from the Nilgiri Game Association, referring to the dhole in 1949. His disdain towards dholes was a common (mis)conception about dholes being lawless, ruthless killers of the Indian jungles and threat to livestock or domesticated animals that were let to graze in jungles. Lt Col EG Phythian-Adams was a big game hunter and naturalist. He collected birds from the wetlands of Kerala, published his hunting memoirs in the Journals of the Bombay Natural History Society. He came to India in 1904 to serve in South Wales Borderers, and Madras Regiment, He retired in 1924 but served again during the World War II and retired in 1945. He settled at Kalhatty near Ooty in Tamil Nadu.

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Canidae

Genus: Cuon

Scientific name: Cuon Alpinus

Type: Mammal

Diet: Carnivore

Size in length: 75 cm – 110 cm

Weight: 12 kg – 20 kg

Lifespan: 10 – 13 years

Lifestyle: pack animal, social

Conservation status: Endangered

Colour: Black, Brown, Gold, Grey, Red, Tan, White

Skin type: Fur

Sexual maturity: after a year

Gestation period: 63 days

Preys on: deer, rodents, birds

Average litter size: 8

Predators: Tigers, Human beings, Leopards,

Features: Bushy tail and distinctive calls

Location: Asia – south and southeast Asia


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