Wild Dog extravaganza!

Text and photographs: Douglas Croft

 

We love dogs.  So when we heard there were wild dog dens at both reserves we’d be visiting, we were thrilled.  We prayed that these highly endangered nomads would stay put till we arrived.  Those prayers were answered, above and beyond!  So much so that Stu Porter, our guide with Wild4 Photo Safaris called our trip a Wild Dog Extravaganza!  There are just over 200 of these predators in the greater Kruger area and we were able to spend time with 56 of them – 25 at MalaMala!

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MalaMala’s den site is home to two litters of pups.  This doesn’t happen often, so it was a real treat to see the bigger pups interact with the smaller ones.

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Watching puppies play never gets old!  Many growing mouths to feed means that the adults in the pack need to hunt pretty much non-stop and our afternoon game drive was suddenly interrupted by a call that the dogs were on the prowl.  Off we went to follow them!

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We were amazed by their intensity and focus.  There was nothing random about their hunt.  They all had a job to do and set about doing it.

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Sometimes walking, sometimes trotting, sometimes running, they seemed to be moving even when they were stopped to survey the surroundings, watching and listening for any sign of prey.

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Our Ranger, Jonno, figured they were headed to the river so we drove ahead to wait for them.  Suddenly a kudu cow came flying by our vehicle with the alpha male, Half Tail, in hot pursuit.  We could not believe how quickly he closed the gap, nor could we believe the tenacity that he showed, one dog chasing prey many times his size. As they bounded over the top of this mound, he looked back and saw that the pack had not joined him and reluctantly abandoned the chase.  One very lucky kudu cow would live to tell a harrowing story!

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A quick drink from the river and the hunt resumed.  We followed as they jogged down river directly past Main Camp hoping to flush some kind of prey.

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They ignored the elephants, but the elephants did not ignore them.  Even the biggest of the ellies flared their ears and kept a watchful eye as the dogs trotted past, oblivious to the fact that those huge animals considered them a threat.

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Eventually, something flushed and the pack exploded into action. Thanks to some amazing driving by Jonno, we were able to keep up as the dogs chased, caught, killed and devoured a small bushbuck.  Time elapsed: roughly 3 minutes.

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At the end of those 3 minutes, a pelt was all that remained.

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But with two litters of pups to feed, nothing goes to waste, and soon even the pelt was gone and the hunt resumed.
The circle of life in the bush happened directly in front of us and it was as fascinating as it was harsh. The speed and intensity of the hunt was astonishing.  While it is never enjoyable to watch something die, knowing that the puppies would eat well this night made the reality of what we’d just witnessed easier to bear.  Another amazing game drive at MalaMala!

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