Every dog has its day

Text: Ranger Pieter van Wyk

Every dog has its day. However, for one particular Cape hunting dog, Thursday wasn’t the type of day referred to in the popular idiom. Whilst viewing 4 members of the Kambula pride and numerous elephants in the Sand River, a commotion was heard upstream. Closer inspection revealed something quite incredible. A scene that very few people have ever witnessed met our eyes.

A crocodile had just latched onto a Cape hunting dog! 2 other crocodiles arrived on the scene shortly after and competed for the spoils. The death of every Cape hunting dog is blow to the species’ attempt at recovery. But at least we can take comfort in the fact that this individual died in the wild, naturally, as all wildlife should.

These are one of the most endangered carnivores on the planet. They were once widely distributed throughout Africa, south of the Sahara, with the exception of some forest and desert areas. Today these predators have disappeared from much of their former range; virtually eradicated from West Africa, greatly reduced in central Africa and northeast Africa. The largest populations remain in southern Africa but, in general, their current distribution is very fragmented. Population density studies suggest that approximately 5,500 free-ranging Cape hunting dogs remain in Africa, with numbers currently stable. Fewer than 450 individuals survive in South Africa of which 250 are mature individuals. Their numbers fluctuate extensively because of high reproductive and mortality rates. However their numbers here are generally increasing. Conservation efforts aimed at expanding their range hope to ensure that these dogs will have their day.