Africa’s Wild Dog – A Survival Story

Do I know who you are?

It’s been a five year adventure of lying in the dirt, racing across the bush-veld and trekking through thick jess, not to mention the predawn hours and hours spent searching for the dogs….. until I learned that you never find the dogs – they find you.

My purpose in creating Africa’s Wild Dogs – A Survival Story is to alert the world to what extraordinary animals they are. I believe Africa’s wild dogs hold their own in the animal kingdom, that they deserve the respect and awe normally attributed to larger more fearsome predators. As research has started to show, these four legged, four toed dogs have a great deal to teach us humans.

Being long legged, the canines are generally on the move, running rather than walking and making headway with speed.  Of course I wanted to catch them shoulder standing and dashing after each other in a game of chase or stealing a toy from a pack mate, but more than that I wanted a very special look for my book. My dream was to design a creation around portraits.

As my fellow photographers will vouch, capturing that special look is far from easy. It takes patience, something the dogs have taught me. An attention flicker off the subject and wham, the shot is lost. Together with patience grew my love for these enigmatic animals. Sitting for hours watching a family sleep, studying the patterns of their black, white and tan coats, the twitching of their satellite-dish shaped ears and their constant communication. They seldom sleep for long periods, rather they wake, walk over to a pack-mate to check whatever dogs check before collapsing in a shady patch to again enter the twilight zone called sleep.

Their curiosity for understanding is high – they want to know who we are. I learned to read their eyes, their look and to have them come up close, look me in the eye with a deep sense of knowing and then to personally investigate my toes. All research to find out who I am. I’m still asking whether I know who they are.

Their upright family social norms and values – not attributes we would normally ascribe to an animal – yet the wild dogs have them. Each pack-family-member knows their role and sticks to it. They care for their little ones with dedication and everything in their power, raising less than 50% of the litter to maturity. Lion and hyena pick off the other 50% or more.

The dogs are possibly the most successful hunters of all predators. They are arc strategists working as a close knit team to bring down their prey. Nature has designed their teeth and digestive system to eat fast which they must do lest pack of hyena scavenge the kill from them or a lion chase them off their dinner. They hunt to eat, leave no waste and carry their food in their bellies to the den to feed the lactating alpha female and her pups.

No record of a wild dog attacking a human exist either in folk lore or in document. Despite this, the dogs became an anathema to hunters and farmers in the early 1900’s and since then been hunted almost to extinction with a mere 6600 left in southern Africa.

Pages from the book

All Royalties from the sale of the book go to Africa’s Wild Dog Survival Fund – a registered Public Benefit Organisation. Plus you will receive a complimentary mini numbered print from my collection.

What are they saying:


    AFRICA’S WILD DOGS a Survival Story by Jocelin Kagan

    This is a truly beautiful and timely book about the charismatic Wild Dogs. In recent years more studies of these intriguing animals have been undertaken, thus creating wider and more-in-depth knowledge. This excellent and important book, with outstanding colour photographs and informative – often poetic – text, is a celebration of the lives of these previously misunderstood and maligned animals.

    Jocelin Kagan, who has studied and photographed Africa’s Wild Dogs over a decade, has captured them in rare and intimate moments. Her great affinity to these endangered animals enabled her to interact closely with them, thus telling a unique story. Her research has been supported by other experts, some of which write their own chapter in this book. Her time in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Tanzania, following the different packs, genetic history, family bonds, methods of hunting and playing, justly promotes a greater admiration of these extraordinary animals.

    “You can tell by those eloquent ears and body language that their world is alive with sound and scent.” Passionate about these enigmatic wild dogs, Jocelin Kagan, established the non-profit organisation Africa’s Wild Dog Survival Fund, to which all royalties from this coffee-table book will go.

    ISBN 978 1 913159 19 1 Published by Merlin Unwin Books, UK / Penguin Random House


    Book review for Fine Music Radio book choice

    Jocelin Kagan (2020).
    Africa’s Wild Dogs. A survival Story.
    Merlin Unwin Books, England. (R520.00).


    Africa’s Wild Dogs – A Survival Story is a large-format photographic celebration of one of the continent’s most charismatic and endangered predators. It is a superb production, a landmark publication put together and at times poetically written by Jocelin Kagan, with supporting insights written by seven other scientists and conservationists committed to the future of wild dogs. The book is a genuine labour of love to inform the world about the fascinating activities of one of the continent’s most misunderstood and maligned animals. Some of you might know the species better by one of its other names, the painted wolf, which I must confess I have never liked, although I suppose the name could suggest some artistic licence as no two dogs have exactly the same markings and coloration. Jocelin Kagan is a most talented and totally committed photographer, going to great lengths to get many of the unrivalled photographs in the book by often lying on the ground next to her subject. More than just a photographer, she also writes with a passion and understanding of her subject, describing the dogs as “beautiful, intelligent, iconic animals – integral to the ecosystems of the African bush” describing them as remarkable, non-confrontational, inquisitive and selfdetermined predators. Wild dogs were once widely distributed in Africa, with the exception of forests, but today their range has been seriously fragmented with only about 6,600 individuals surviving, with established packs in just seven countries. The reasons for this include a “shoot to kill” policy from far too many farmers, the loss of habitat as the continent’s rapidly growing human population transforms and fragments natural ecosystems with infrastructure and livestock, predation on wild dogs by lion, and disease from contact with domestic dogs. More recently, escalating poverty and serious malnutrition in many African countries as a result of the coronavirus has stimulated a resurgence of bushmeat hunting, with wild dogs being caught in snares set for other animals. The suffering of any animal caught in a snare is appalling, but wild dogs are all too frequently a component of collateral damage, with one case of a young male chewing off its own leg to get out of a snare. As Dr Rosemay Groom, one of the contributors to the book said: “Until there is basic food security and access to education and health services in the communities that live alongside wildlife, we are fighting an uphill battle.” It is a battle that can be won though when the required education and economic upliftment is coupled with support for the dedicated team of conservationists working for an unassailable future for Africa’s wildlife, both by securing natural habitats of adequate size and by championing species reintroductions. South Africa’s Wild Dog Advisory Group has kept meticulous records of what works and does not work when it comes to wild dog reintroductions and have maintained total numbers of wild dogs above 150 individuals in more than 12 breeding packs since 2009. These good news stories of course need repeating and enhancing, and this is where Jocelin Kagan must be congratulated for not only stimulating an appreciation for such a fascinating animal, but also by ensuring that all of the
    royalties from the book will go towards wild dog conservation through her new Foundation – Africa’s Wild Dog Survival Fund (AWDSF). I will end this review with a quote from the author’s acknowledgements, where she said: “To those who share my dream to ensure people learn more and gain a deeper understanding as they demystify the non-confrontational nature of this spirited predator, my deepest appreciation and grateful thanks.” In turn, we should thank Jocelin for an outstanding production for which I have no hesitation in giving my strongest possible recommendation.

    John Hanks: