DEC 19, 2017 05:07 AM PST

Can a robot spy dog integrate with real wild dogs?

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This video shows perhaps the most up-close and personal footage of wild dogs in the wild that has ever been captured. But how did we snag these images? Wild dogs are carnivorous mammals that live throughout Africa but their numbers are dwindling due to habitat degradation, hunting, and disease. The species is listed as endangered in the IUCN red list. Though true to their name, they are canines, wild dogs differ in anatomy from other dogs in that they have 4 toes per pad instead of 5. They also have tall rounded ears and mottled fur, to which it's Latin name, Lycaon pictus (painted wolf), refers.

Wild dogs are special in their pack behavior. The canines often hunt in groups of 6-20 or more animals and share their victory meat with all individuals in the pack. Scientists have even observed that the hunters will share the pickings with sick or weak members of the pack. Adults dogs are also known to regurgitate meat for pups in the pack. But much is still unknown about wild dogs and conservationists are on a mission to learn as much as possible as quickly as possible, due to their decreasing populations.

Enter spy pup, a robot wild dog pup with 24 moving parts that looks, acts, (and okay, maybe doesn't smell) like a real wild dog pup. The robot, a part of PBS' Spy in the Wild, is intended to gather more information on pup dynamics of wild dog packs. That is, of course, if the animals accept it. Watch the movie to find out how spy pup does!
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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