Eighteen or twenty five?

Text: Dave Landey | Photographs: Dave Landey and Matt Meyer

In May, the idea of potentially having a cape hunting dog densite on MalaMala was an exciting one. The levels of excitement were bumped up a notch when this suspicion was confirmed in early June. The pack of 13, which are easily characterised by the older males shorter tail and floppy ears, were not the only members of the pack that were seen during June.

 

The older male cape hunting dog, with the floppy ears and shorter tail.

The older male cape hunting dog, with the floppy ears and shorter tail.

 

In the first week of the month five of the newest members of this pack were seen, however the first few sightings of these puppies were quite brief. It was not long before they started venturing out of their den more frequently, and towards the middle of June these puppies were being seen on a more regular basis. Due to the cape hunting dogs’ hyper-metabolic rate they need to feed fairly regularly, especially because there are a few more mouths to feed. From time to time we have fortunate enough to witness the hunters returning from a successful venture and regurgitating some of their quarry for the young ones as well as for those who stayed behind.

 

Two of the adults returning from a successful hunt and sharing the kill with the five puppies.

Two of the adults returning from a successful hunt and sharing the kill with the five puppies.

 

The pups grab their portion of meat, and head off to go and feed.

The pups grab their portion of meat, and head off to go and feed.

 

The individuals, who do not go out hunting, choose different vantage points scattered around the densite. These sentinels take their roles very seriously, lifting their heads and perking their ears if anything piques their interest. At the first sign of any potential danger they will deliver anything from a low growl to a bark – all such warnings are heeded instantaneously by the puppies who will scamper back into the safe haven of their den.

 

The puppies will spend less time close to the entrance of the den as they get older and begin exploring.

The puppies will spend less time close to the entrance of the den as they get older and begin exploring.

 

One of the sentinels, keeping watch from the northern bank of the termite mound, during the packs’ afternoon hunt.

One of the sentinels, keeping watch from the northern bank of the termite mound, during the packs’ afternoon hunt.

 

Along with the sentinels, the alpha female will remain at the densite with her offspring while the other pack members head out to go and hunt. Getting a meal is high up on the agenda, however these lively animals will often take a moment to ‘play’ with others. Often this frolicsome behaviour goes unappreciated, as they leave a trail of mayhem in their path.

 

The alpha female and her puppies, enjoying the early morning sunshine.

The alpha female and her puppies, enjoying the early morning sunshine.

 

An elephant cow and calf are the victims of the cape hunting dogs’ tomfoolery, causing the couple to rapidly escape into a spike thorn thicket.

An elephant cow and calf are the victims of the cape hunting dogs’ tomfoolery, causing the couple to rapidly escape into a spike thorn thicket.

 

The most recent count of all of the animals in this pack is 25. 13 adults and 5 puppies, which we see fairly often, giving us a total of 18 – why the count of 25 you ask? Well, more recently we have seen seven confirmed, even younger puppies, who are assumed to be born by the beta female. These puppies are about half the size of the original five and appear to have been adopted by the alpha female.

 

The alpha female translocating one of the puppies from the beta female.

The alpha female translocating one of the puppies from the beta female.

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