Our planet is still full of undescribed species, waiting to be discovered, and it is amazing just what can be lurking right under our noses. We would like to think that we know the larger predators of Africa pretty well, but, it turns out there is still a lot to learn! Only last year scientists revealed that a Canid occurring in Africa that was previously thought to be Golden Jackal Canis aureus was in fact a different species; the African Golden Wolf Canis anthus.
The Golden Jackal is still a valid species occurring in Europe and Asia, however this new, cryptic, species had remained unrecognised throughout its African range right up to this point.
We had encountered African Golden Wolves in Morocco and Western Sahara a number of times over the last 12 years. however, had always assumed they were Golden Jackals based on what was written in the field-guide, despite the fact that they looked vastly different from those we had seen in Israel and further east. In March 2015 we deployed a number of camera traps in massifs in the Western Sahara with the aim of documenting the assemblage of carnivores present. The massifs are large, sand-blasted basalt domes that rise from the desert floor, often with polished dark surfaces and giant black boulders peppered around their base. They provide much needed shelter for many species and as a result offer a brilliant opportunity to find out what mammal species still occur in the region.
Fast-forward twelve-months and we returned to collect the cameras in and analyse the images. To our very pleasant surprise the pictures told an unfolding story of the lives of African Golden Wolves in the Sahara. We will let the pictures do the remainder of the talking.