Monday, September 17, 2012

Defending the Dhole!

The Greenmomster loves dogs, so this week’s endangered species is a favorite -- the dhole (Cuon alpinus), a species of wild dog found in Southeast Asia.  These small (about the size of a border collie), endangered dogs live in large social packs.  Because they hunt in packs, they can eat large prey, such as dholesambars,  a species of deer (Rusa unicolor), or even wild boar!   The dhole is an unusual dog for several reasons – it has unique vocalizations, including whistling (which it uses to reassemble the pack) and clucking; it can leap vertically in the air up to 7.5 feet; it has one less molar on its lower jaw than other dogs.   The dhole is usually found in forested areas, but can also be found in the steppes. 

The main threat to this species’ survival is habitat loss.  Scientists are working hard to figure out which areas are suitable for dhole survival and may be eligible for preservation.  A team of Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute researchers recently completed a 2 year camera tracking study of the dholes, as well as a study of 4 years of data to determine which areas suit the dholes best.  It turns out, dholes don’t like to live above 1,650 feet and they also like to be near those sambars.

Sources:  Dhole Home Page, produced by Leon S. Durbin (accessed 9/12) and “Dhole Discovery” in Smithsonian Zoogoer, July/August 2012 (photo from Smithsonian).

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