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Animal of the Month
June 2021

Name: Dhole (AKA Asiatic Wild Dog, Red Dog, Whistling Dog)

Classification:
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Canidae
Subfamily: Caninae
Genus: Cuon
Species: C. Alpinus
Number of Species: 7

Size: 3 feet long, 20 inches at shoulder, tail 15-18 inches long.
Weight: Females 22-29 lbs., males 33-44 lbs.

Characteristics:
Quadruped, sleek body covered in fur, fox-like head and snout, bushy tail.
Color(s): Brownish-red, with patches of white on the underbelly and neck and black tail.
Behavior: Social, living in clans. Breaks into small packs to hunt.
Preferred Habitat: Dense forests, grasslands, scrublands, alpine regions.
Range: Central, south, and southeast Asia. Mostly concentrated in India. Possibly Siberia.
Diet: Hoofed animals including deer, pigs and buffalo. Also feeds on smaller animals like rabbits and lizards, and sometimes berries..
Lifespan: About 10 years in the wild, up to 16 years in captivity.

Status: ENDANGERED.

Some people have to explain their names when they introduce themselves. Perhaps their name is uncommon or spelt in an unusual way. If this sounds like you, the dhole can relate! Dholes-pronounced "doles"; - are a species of wild canine. They call south and southeast Asia home, with their greatest numbers residing in India.

At one time there were ten subspecies of dhole. Today there are seven known subspecies. Dholes are around three feet tall at the shoulder, about the size of a German shepherd. They are versatile creatures, being fast runners, strong jumpers and good swimmers. These skills help them to adapt to multiple habitats, including living grasslands, forests and scrublands. This also makes life easier when you share your habitat with predators like tigers and leopards!

Similar to their cousins, the wolves, dholes live in social groups called clans. A dhole clan usually has around 12 individuals, but they can be as large as 40. A single dhole clan can have a territory as large as 34 square miles! Dhole clans are not as strict in social structure as a wolf pack. A dominant pair is harder to identify and fighting between or within clans is rare.

Sometimes dholes are called "whistling dogs". This is because they communicate by making a variety of whistles, chirps, clucks and screams. A dhole clan can sound more like a flock of birds than a group of canines! Dholes will separate into groups of three or four individuals to go hunting. They use their strong sense of smell to track down prey, namely hoofed animals like deer and buffalo. They also prey on small animals like rabbits or lizards, and they even forage for plant life like berries!

Dholes live in dens under dense scrub or between rocks. Sometimes dens will have multiple entrances, and their tunnels can add up to 100 feet long! Dholes usually mate between mid-October and January. Unlike a wolf pack, a dhole clan may have more than one breeding female. After 60-63 days, a mother will give birth to four-to-six pups. An adult will stay with the pups while adults go hunting. After around 50 days of nursing the adults will start to regurgitate meat for the pups to eat. At six months old a dhole is old enough to go hunting with the adults.

Dholes are endangered. Once common across Eurasia, dholes only inhabit a fraction of their historic range. This is largely due to overhunting and habitat destruction. People have long persecuted dholes out of fear for their livestock. Another serious problem for dholes is disease from domesticated dogs. Some believe there are less than 2,500 dholes left in the wild.

Fortunately, much is being done for these beautiful creatures. India, China, Russia, and Cambodia all have laws protecting dholes, and Vietnam has restrictions on their hunting. Global breeding programs have been launched, and hardworking organizations like the Dhole Conservation Fund are doing all they can to protect these animals. There is even a company in Korea reportedly attempting to keep the species from going extinct through cloning! Conservation can take many forms. Every effort helps, whether that help come from the local, national, or international level. If we work together, we can give dholes a fighting chance!

To learn more about these beautiful canines and how to help them, look up these fantastic websites:

Dhole Conservation Fund-Dedicated to preserving and speaking for the dhole!
http://www.dholes.org/

Wildlife Conservation Society, Dhole Page-Check out what the WCS's Indian division is doing for dholes!
https://india.wcs.org/Programmes/Dhole

Want to do more for dholes? You can start by…

*...spreading the word (many people haven't even heard of doles!)
*...buying goods like paper that aren't contributing to habitat destruction.
*...start a fundraiser like a bake sale (donut holes for dholes?) and donate the profits.
*...writing to your leaders and asking for stronger protections.

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