Other predators: impact on prey and Wild Dog

Wild dogs are in direct competition for food with other large carnivores like lion, spotted hyaena, leopard and cheetah, as much of their diets overlap. Lions and spotted hyaena, in particular, can have a limiting effect on wild dog numbers where they occur together through both food and non-food related interactions. The kill rates of other predators must be considered when assessing prey numbers and availability. The table below gives examples of average kill rates of small to large-sized ungulates for predators of varying group sizes and study areas.

Lion and spotted hyaena are also known to steal kills from wild dogs. Such kleptoparasitism has been observed and recorded in wild dog populations across Africa but wild dogs themselves very rarely scavenge from other predators. Wild dogs also interact with other predators away from kills. Wild dogs appear to avoid contact with lions as much as possible, but if they do meet, wild dogs usually move away. Despite this lack of frequent contact, predation of lions on wild dogs is fairly common.

Lions have been responsible for nineteen recorded wild dog deaths in the Kruger National Park (van Heerden et al. 1995). Of these 39% were pups and 43% were adults. In Etosha National Park in Namibia a wild dog reintroduction attempt failed because a pride of lion systematically hunted and killed the dogs over a number of weeks (Scheepers and Venzke 1995).

Predation by lions is a major cause of wild dog mortality in most ecosystems. In closed systems, like those represented by metapopulation reserves, if numbers of lions and spotted hyaena become too high wild dogs are likely to be negatively affected both in terms of prey consumption and overall numbers. Management, or at the very least monitoring, of lion, and to a lesser degree spotted hyaena, numbers is imperative for wild dog pack persistence in metapopulation reserves.

Species Group size Kill rate per day Type of prey hunted Average number of prey hunted annually Study area and reference
Lion 8 0.227 Medium to large ungulates 83 Madjuma Lion Reserve, South Africa - Power 2002
Spotted hyaena 16 0.279 Medium to large ungulates 102 Namib Desert, Namibia - Henchel and Tilson 1988
Leopard 1 0.142 Medium-sized ungulates 52 Kruger National Park, South Africa - Bailey 1993
Cheetah 1 0.334 Small to medium-sized ungulates 122 Nairobi National Park, Kenya - McLaughlin 1970