Dogs are some of the best companions, often far more loyal than their human counterparts. However, many people hold on to the belief that dogs are not intelligent beings and are only interested in humans in as much as they will provide them with shelter and food. Recent research has proven otherwise and, as Amy Crawford of Smithsonianmag.com articulates, dogs are more like us than even apes.
Dogs, you see, can learn words much like small children, connecting novel sounds with novel labels. They learn from human interaction and retain complicated bits of information. On an emotional level, dogs seem to sense and understand us. Research conducted by neuroscientist Gregory Burns, has shown uncanny similarities to a part of the brain known as the caudate nucleus. In humans, the caudate nucleus shows activity when we are happy, or are participating in something we enjoy. The study, published last October, shows the same brain activity for dogs and is perhaps the most definitive proof of canine emotion ever established. If dogs can feel happy, then it follows that they can also feel despair. This puts a critical spin on the living conditions of dogs worldwide, especially ones that are endangered, like the African Wild Dog.
The Tale of the African Wild Dog
African Wild Dogs are found in packs all over Africa. They are also known as hunting dogs and their prey ranges from gazelles to birds, antelopes and rats. Traveling in packs of 6-20, these canines are social creatures and cooperate for the welfare of the group. According to the African Wildlife Foundation, in the past 20 years, the population of these dogs has dropped a drastic 90 percent, leaving them endangered and desperately close to extinction. How exactly do these dogs compare to domesticated dogs at home?
Wild Dogs v. Domestic Dogs
While your dog at home might not be a hunter dedicated to a pack, it did descend from a species not unlike that of the African Wild Dog, the wolf. Pack animals are by nature social and faithful to their pack. African Wild Dogs are no different, and they work collaboratively in their pack and seek to protect them at any cost. As National Geographic reports, these dogs share food between the pack and assist weak or sick members. This behavior shows understanding and intelligence like that of domesticated canines.
What Can You Do?
While it has never been domesticated, the African Wild Dog still requires some basics in order to survive. As the facts from National Geographic state, due to human population growth, the habitat these dogs once were free to hunt and roam is shrinking. Because it has no other choice, the African Wild Dog has been attacking livestock to sustain its populations.
Without a concerted conservation effort, one of the oldest species of canine will disappear due to human interaction in their environment. It is inhumane to stand by and watch as the African Wild Dog population hurtles towards extinction. The best thing you can do as a dog lover is understand that space is required for this species to carry on, and support efforts by organizations like the African Wildlife Foundation to preserve an important and valuable canine.