About the Author

Jess Shillaw

Guest contributor

Jess was born in Kwazulu/Natal but grew up in Cape Town. Having an innate love for all things wild but getting to spend little time in the bush while growing up, she headed straight for the Lowveld after school. She completed a guiding ...

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on Africa’s Painted Wolves

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Lovely blog Jess. Wild dogs or painted wolfs are very close to my heart. It is very special to see them and watch their behaviour. Speaking to farmers they are still regarded as vermin, as is the caracal. There are so many things that threaten them. As you mentioned they get killed in the road and not just rabies but distemper can completely dessimate a pack.

Thank you, Marinda! Yes unfortunately distemper is another problem the pack has to face. They are a beautiful creature and very entertaining!

Though I have never been to Africa or seen one of these animals in real life, I have been very curious about them since first learning of their existence, in a podcast featuring Boyd Varty. They certainly deserve protection, as most living things do ( parasites etc I could do without). I hope to visit one day and get a chance to view them in their natural habitat…
As a Canadian, I find it interesting that you mention ‘loyalty’ as a trait of wolves. It may be very true, however we assign that trait to dogs, not wolves. Though we know them to live and hunt in packs in most cases, they are often celebrated and mythologized for their solitary nature. We use the term ‘lone wolf’ in our culture, possibly as you do in Africa, to describe someone who prefers to live on their own, or act alone in the pursuit of a goal.

Sadly, we usually use that term to describe solo perpetrators of violence, often the case with the school shootings in the US, and in Canada as well.
Our North American wolf populations have faced threat and though our attempts at protection have had some unwanted results at times, I always root for these beautiful, soulful creatures (I am aware that I am imposing ‘human’ characteristics on them, but hearing a heart wrenching solo howl at night is all the proof I need).

Please continue to protect these painted wolves, and all of their fellow animals that pass through your range.

Thank you, Jonathan! Yes you are correct, I have heard of the term “lone wolf”. I would love to see a wolf in the wild one day but it’s on my bucket list, even to just hear their howl would be magical for me!

I think Painted Wolves DOES sound a lot better than wild dogs, Jess! You are quite right. I have NEVER seen them in the wild and would give anything to do so. Wendy M

Thank you, Wendy! I hope one day you’ll get to experience them in the wild, with patience they are usually on the move or hunting making them fantastic animals to watch!

I’ve been thinking “Painted Wolves” since I read a persuasive article in the November 23, 2018 ‘Africa Geographic’ and your blog wonderfully supports the sane name change. They are fascinating, thrilling creatures to see, to follow when they’re on the hunt. Thanks!

Thank you, Mary! They are a thrill to watch! Glad you considering painted wolves too!

Digital Ranger

I like your point of view and decision, Jess. Yes, let’s call wild dogs, painted wolves and continue to work to protect the species.

Thank you for considering it Pam! Let’s hope it sheds some light on the species!

Coincidentally I watched the BBC Dynasties Show about the painted wolf yesterday. It was so interesting. I have seen the dogs at Londolozi but never saw them hunt. They are so ominous looking with their heads down and ears back! Such amazing creatures, it would be such a shame to lose them. I hope you are right that referring to them as painted wolves may change their image.

Thank you, Leslie! Yes it’s very special to see them and sometimes hunt! Dynasties is filmed so well and really captures the beauty of each animal! I hope by calling them wolves would help them too!

Senior Digital Ranger

What a lovely piece you wrote. I agree with you that calling them by their latin translation is more honoring of who they are. I fell in love with these amazing canids when I wrote a book on endangered species and learned that they are so close to their kin that they even feed and take care of the ill and elderly of their members, among other fascinating facts. I hope we never lose these magnificent animals and also hope to see them in person one day.

Thank you, Johanna! The way they work in a pack is inspiring and we as humans can learn a lot from them by just observing them! I hope you witness them in person one day, something I will never take for granted!

Very interesting blog, Jess, and well written. I do like the idea of changing the name to be more impactful, however I am far more concerned with their survival. So many core animals are on the decline in Africa. I find it both alarming and tremendously sad.

Thank you, Joanne! Yes it is heart breaking that most species are on the decline but if we all work together and try shed some light/ interest on the animals we may have a chance! One must never give up, that is my promise to the animals!

I’ve been viewing David Attenborough’s latest BBC series, Dynasties and was pleased to see the painted wolfs included. They are fascinating to observe, whether on a frenzied hunt, or seeing pups playing. Your blog ‘s content was timely as these canids are endangered and it’s important for all of us to join together to insure they have a future.

Thank you, Denise! There is never a dull moment with painted wolves! I agree that we need to work together!

Why not call them painted dogs?

Hi Ron,

Interesting idea, but I think “wolves” has a more romantic ring to it, especially since the respective dynamics of the two species, being pack hunters with alpha males and females, is so similar…

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