African wild dogs are highly sociable and exhibit a very unusual social system; within their packs, dogs of the same sex are closely related to each other but not to individuals of the opposite sex, and only the dominant male and female will breed (4) (5) (6). Packs vary in size from 2 to 27 individuals and new packs are formed when subgroups of the same sex (usually siblings) disperse and join up with a subgroup of the opposite sex (5), leading to the unusual configuration of the pack. Only the dominant female will give birth to pups, and births may take place throughout the year, although they are more common between March and June (2). Litter size is the largest of any canid, averaging ten pups (2); these are born within dens where they remain for around three months (6). Initially the mother will stay with her pups and when members of the pack return from hunting they regurgitate food for her. As the pups get older however, all pack members help with feeding and ‘baby sitting’ of the young dogs (6). Juveniles are fully independent at 16 to 24 months (6) but remain with their pack, females are more likely to disperse, usually leaving in a sub-group with their sisters once they reach two years old (6).
Outside of the breeding season, African wild dogs are nomadic and wander over large distances in search of prey; home ranges can be as large as 5,000 square kilometres, but are often restricted to areas of less than 200 square kilometres (2). These dogs are carnivorous and hunt their prey by cooperating closely in a group (2). This strategy enables them to hunt prey comprising antelope and ungulates much larger than themselves, to include kudu bulls and wildebeest weighing up to 250 kilograms, as well as ensuring their hunting success is much higher than that of other large carnivorous species (2). Packs set out to hunt in the cool of dawn and dusk, avoiding other predators such as lions. The victim is pulled to the ground and the group descends to feed; pups in the pack are allowed to eat first (6).