During a morning drive around Nagarahole national park, Karnataka, in March 2013, we encountered a pack of 5-6 dholes (Cuon alpinus) close to the forest office. There were a few pups playing around, even climbing a tree. Being highly social, playing is helpful in cementing bonds between pack members, besides being fun! (Adult dholes too will sometimes climb onto sloping tree trunks or termite mounds – Ed). Pack sizes may sometimes swell to over 20, but will usually then split up into smaller packs. They whistle to communicate with each other and don’t bark. They also differ from members of the genus Canis in having fewer molars and females having more teats.
Like many threatened predator species, they are data-deficient. The global population of dholes is thought to be <2500 wild individuals. They are the only Asian wild canid that primarily inhabits forested areas. Dholes predominantly prey upon ungulates such as axis deer and sambhar. Despite their endangered status (See IUCN Red List), they are the least studied social large carnivores (Srivathsa A et al, 2014).
Chosen as 'Picture of the Week'
Although ranging widely in south and south east Asia, dholes have become endangered everywhere due to various factors including habitat loss, prey base depletion and diseases transmitted by domestic and feral dogs.