The wild dogs of South Africa were once the country’s least appreciated predator. As a result, their numbers sank perilously low. Wild dogs, which need vast areas to roam and hunt in, are now managed as a 'meta-population' and parks work together to prevent inbreeding.

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Wild dogs are intensely altruistic, helping to feed old, very young and injured dogs.

The wild dogs of South Africa, as in the rest of the subcontinent, are some of the most endangered carnivores in the world. Count yourself extremely lucky to see a pack.

And don't mistake them for feral domestic dogs. In fact, they're barely distant cousins. These long legged predators with satellite dish ears, Jackson Pollock coats and plumy tails are unlike any other member of the dog family. But if you're ever close enough to smell one, you'll recognise the aroma − concentrated, gamey essence of hound.

There was a time when even conservationists persecuted them, and their numbers plummeted to dangerously low levels in South Africa and the subcontinent.

Wild dog conservation is tricky. They have high-rev metabolisms, hunting every day and roaming over enormous distances. As a result, your best chance is to see them in South Africa's largest parks such as the Kruger, Tswalu, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi and Madikwe national parks and reserves.

After a day of lounging in heaps on top of one another, sharing flies and shade, wild dogs will typically start to stir in the late afternoon. They get ready for a hunt by what can only be termed a pep-rally, with a 'cheerleader' egging them on until they're all making excited twittering noises.

Because a game reserve can typically only accommodate one or two packs, keeping the blood-line healthy is a challenge. Wild dogs are periodically translocated to prevent in-breeding.

Conservation of wild dogs in South Africa is boosted by captive-breeding at specialised facilities. 'Tame' dogs are being combined with wild-caught dogs to form successful packs in new reserves.

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