Once again photographer Max Waugh, a photographic tour guide and previous MalaMala Photographer of the Year winner, has been kind enough to share his experience of the MalaMala wildlife with us. This time Max has put together a collection of images he took during a sighting of a pack of African Wild Dogs.
Though my clients were understandably overwhelmed by the fantastic leopard, lion and elephant encounters we enjoyed at MalaMala, my personal highlight came when we encountered a pack of African wild dogs. I’d only seen this species once before during a brief sighting in Kruger, and two years ago I had just missed a dog pack denning at MalaMala. So I was eager for another viewing.The call came in that the dogs had been found on the southern end of the property. Because they travel quickly and over long distances, wild dog sightings are often fleeting, so we raced southward. When we arrived on the scene, the pack was strewn about, napping near the road.The five adults were lounging in the grass, but their nine pups were sprawled out right in the middle of the road.
There wasn’t much activity to speak of during the first twenty minutes or so. Occasionally a lone pup would get up and walk around for a bit, but inevitably they flopped back down again.
Despite the lack of action, our ranger Dean told us to be patient. Eventually, he predicted, the adults would rouse themselves for an afternoon hunt. And when that happened, he assured us things would get a bit crazy. After a few more minutes, our patience paid off.
Dean told us to expect the adults to get themselves “pumped up” for the hunt by joining together in a frenzied social gathering. Soon they were sniffing, licking, biting and tackling each other.
The pups sprang to their feet and lined up, waiting for their turn to join the melee.
Finally, the adults turned their attention to the youngsters. The air was filled with sounds of high-pitched squeaking as the pups followed and played with the adults.
At times, the adults would tackle and bite the pups in a show of dominance. It was pretty rough play, and a couple of the pups sported bloody wounds under their throats. Sometimes, the pups would try to assert dominance over each other.
What fun it was to seeing such a rare animal (about 6% of the total population in the greater Kruger area!) engage in this unique social behavior. It didn’t hurt that those pups were pretty darn cute as well.