Lycaon pictus, the scientific name for the African Wild Dog, means “Painted Wolf”. These extremely social animals, although not one of the Big 5 together with the Cheetah, make up part the Magnificent 7. Sightings of these very active animals can be an exciting experience for those watching. These “dogs” as they are affectionately known by wildlife enthusiasts and guides alike, do enjoy being in the water. Especially after they have eaten as they tend to expend energy while hunting and the ensuing raucous and speedy dismemberment and ingestion of their prey.
Each dog has a unique set of markings, with no two being identical. This makes it easier for researchers/guides to identify individual animals with a degree of certainty. This particular animal is probably the darkest dog I have seen to date.
This particular pack, seen during two drives from Klaserie Sands River Camp, consisted of 34 individuals, 19 of those being pups! Even when they are resting they are active. They will all collapse and try to get some rest, but then there is always that one dog that wants to play and will set off a chain reaction that sees the majority of the pack getting involved.
Interesting fact: There is a ceremony around the beginning of each hunt, that not only bonds all those who will be hunting but also makes each away of what role they will be expected to play. With a series of yips and vocalizations, they excite each other as they prepare to hunt. Should their attempt be unsuccessful, the alpha dog will call them together for a “team talk”, like a team coach,encouraging them all to do better at the next attempt.
The pups, the elderly and the infirm are all cared for by the pack. Wild dogs are on the ENDANGERED list mainly because of their contact with humans and domestic animals that can spread infectious diseases like canine distemper and rabies. Due to their social nature, these infections can quickly spread through a pack with devastating results.
Splish splash…All the hectic activity from the pack meant several trips to cool off in the water. It seems that the dogs prefer shallows along the edge of the waterhole rather than being adventurous and venturing into deeper water.
Never at a total standstill, the pack ebbed and flowed like an amoeba in a Petrie dish!
A quick drink…
Dogs vacillate between being the chaser or the chased… Packs do not have a fixed territory but have vast home ranges that cause them to be constantly on the move. As a result, long sightings like this one are extremely rare. We found this particular pack during a morning drive and when we went out for the afternoon activity, they were still at the same waterhole.
In a reflective mood. One of the larger pups takes a moment to rest and recover. Interestingly, unlike other species, the males remain with their natal pack, while the females leave to join new packs.
In the fast-fading afternoon sunlight, there was a stirring within the pack. Both our guide and the tracker believed that they would soon take off to try and find an evening meal.
And that is exactly what happened! With a series of calls the entire pack was mobilized and took off as a well-disciplined unit. Both the adults and the pups were involved and in the blink of an eye, all 34 dogs had disappeared into the surrounding bush.
We, on the other hand, decided to use the opportunity to enjoy a sundowner beverage and snack at an open area nearby. It turned out that this would NOT be the last we would see of the pack that evening. No sooner had the cooler-box been unpacked, than we noticed that the dogs were running past us. So we packed up and followed as there was every possibility they there would be a successful hunt. We were not the only “followers”, as 4 hyena had joined in at the rear of the dog pack.
And the dogs’ success was short-lived and these scavengers moved in quickly to divest the dogs of their Impala kill. The noise emanating from this creatures-of-the-night was blood-curdling and made the hair on the back of our necks rise in unison! Needless to say that the dogs dispersed to seek other prey, while these 4 squabbled over the remnants of the Impala carcass. Just another night in the African Bush.
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