When Singapore-born African wild dogs Adrian, Severus and Badu were introduced to Rita at Altina Wildlife Park, Adrian wasn’t given much hope of getting lucky.
“Adrian was the smallest of the three brothers,” operations manager Rebecca Surian said. “We thought Rita would go for the biggest and the best. Badu is a real big dog, I would’ve put my money on him for sure.”
But powered by the animal kingdom’s version of “small-man syndrome”, Adrian was able to triumph.
“Rita learnt from her mum that dominance and personality is what keeps the pack in line, that’s what Adrian was able to show,” Ms Surian said.
Adrian partnered with Rita, who gave birth to four male puppies five months ago. The family of eight are now all vaccinated, healthy and thriving.
“Now Adrian has proven himself a breeder and a good father, that will be it… wild dogs will mate for life,” Ms Surian said.
“They share food, they mark territory together, they put the uncles in place together. It’s a lot of working together, it’s a really unified pair.”
Altina has now bred 36 puppies as part of the park’s African wild dogs program, offering hope for an animal that is severely endangered.
“There are less than 2000 left,” Ms Surian said. ”I’ve been to Africa a couple of times and we haven’t seen a single wild dog. We have African visitors that say they’ve never seen them in their own home country. They come here and see a thriving pack, which is awesome for conservation.
“Their biggest threat [in Africa] is that domestic dogs carry diseases and viruses … if they’re not vaccinated, those diseases get distributed to the wild dog population.
“A re-release program would definitely be the dream for us. It would be awesome to say, ‘We’ve bred X amount of wild dogs, let’s take them back to Africa and work on a re-release breeding program’.”
She said extinction would be devastating for the ecosystem.
“Less prey will be eaten, and an overpopulation of prey species then affects the amount of grass they’re grazing, their hooves walking on the side of the waterways will affect the way the water runs – if their numbers aren’t being kept in check, you’ll have more of them [to cause damage to rivers and land].”
As one the world’s best predators, the African wild dogs are invaluable in their natural habitat, Ms Surian says.
“They have a success rate of 70 to 90 per cent – they chase their prey down until they can run no longer, they’re endurance runners. They’re lean, they’re intelligent, they look after their weaker links, they work together, they tag team.”
Altina Wildlife Park, near Darlington Point, is a nationally accredited exotic and native animal-breeding facility that aims to bring endangered animals, such as African wild dogs, back from the brink of extinction.
A wide selection of animals can be seen via controlled tours, which generally operate at 9 am and 1 pm every day. For bookings or more information on how to support the park’s initiatives, visit its website.