Vertebrate fauna of SE Asia


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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless otherwise credited.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2023




Family : Canidae
Species : Cuon alpinus

Head-body length : up to 105 cm
Tail length : up to 45 cm
Weight : males to 21 kg, females to 17 kg

Dhole, or Asian Wild Dog, are the largest and most widespread species of wild canid in Southeast Asia. They occur in a variety of lowland and montane habitats including primary forest, secondary forest, forest-edge and scrub-grassland mosaic. They reportedly occur up to 5300 metres elevation.

They occur in packs of up to 20 individuals or so, although typical pack size is around 6-8. They are shy of humans, and are normally only glimpsed as they traverse forest tracks or roads. Vocalisation is confined to simple yaps and whistles of low volume and limited duration.

They are mainly crepuscular in habits (i.e. active early morning and late afternoon). Their young are reared in the safety of natural holes (for example beneath tree roots), abandoned burrows of other mammals, or in small caves.

They prey on a wide variety of other mammals including large ungulates such as Sambarmuntjac and even young Gaur.

In Taman Negara, Peninsular Malaysia, analysis of Dhole faeces confirmed the following prey species : Dusky Langur, Sunda Pig-tailed Macaque, various squirrels, Eurasian Wild Pig and mousedeer (for example, Greater Mousedeer): reptiles and birds appeared to be absent from their diet (Kawanishi & Sunquist, 2008).

Their fur is a rich, orange-brown colour throughout much of the body, but the belly and inner part of the limbs may be whitish. The long, bushy tail is mainly black. Their legs are long and slender. The snout is relatively pointed, and their ears are large and rounded often with white fur inside.

In many parts of the region large, feral domestic dogs may have similar fur colour to Dhole, however they lack the black, bushy tail.

Within Southeast Asia dholes occur in Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and Java. Outside the region their range extends to parts of India, Nepal, southern China and Siberia.

For a comprehensive discussion of the current range of the species, the reader is referred to the IUCN red list website. Contrary to the latter, however, there are no reliable, historical records from Singapore.

Figs 1 to 3 : Trail camera images from sun-dappled, lowland forest in Peninsular Malaysia.

All images courtesy MYCAT ゥ. 

References : M3, M5

IUCN Red List

Kawanishi, K., & Sunquist, M, E. (2008). Food habits and activity patterns of the Asiatic golden cat (Catopuma temminckii) and dhole (Cuon alpinus) in a primary rainforest of Peninsular Malaysia. Mammal Study, 33(4), 173-177.

Fig 1
Fig 2
Fig 3