The Wild Dogs started yawning and stretching, their painted coats shimmering in the golden light. The three pups were energised and could sense the change in mood of the pack.
There was an air of excitement as the dogs started trotting off into the clearing nearby. Their lean, sleek bodies exuded confidence. They had hunted successfully many times before. The moment turned all the more special when for the first time the pups at the tender age of three months followed. Tired of waiting whilst the adults did the hunting; this time they wanted to be part of the action.
Immediately the dogs saw a large stocky Waterbuck bull and gave chase. At full stride over the clearing the dogs are a sight to behold. Two hundred metres into the chase you could see their hearts were not fully committed. The waterbuck was simply too large and the sharpened horns potentially lethal. It was however a learning curve for the pups that ran behind and watched the rest of the pack try outwit the antelope. For ages the dogs and the waterbuck faced off against each other waiting for the other to make the move. Patience and persistence paid off on the Waterbuck’s behalf and the pack soon grew bored. The sun was sliding away over the mountains to the west and I thought that we had seen the end of the Wild dogs for the day.
Four of the adults chased the pups back to the den, but five remained. They were clearly not satisfied going to sleep with empty stomachs. One by one they started sauntering off in the opposite direction of the den site. Following focused Wild dogs running, white tails flowing gently from left to right, is in my opinion, the greatest adrenalin rush in the bush. They are beautiful! I had seen it a couple of times before but nothing could prepare me for what was about to unfold.
The dogs had left the road and we followed at a sensitive distance carefully manoeuvring through the bush-willow thicket. Struggling to keep up and maintain a visual of the dogs we pushed on and guided by our experienced tracker, James Siwela, we decided to take a gamble and move around to try and potentially intercept them at the next opening. We got into position and starred hopefully into the thicket. Nothing! Silence! Only the faint rustle of the leaves could be heard as the wind tickled our faces. Had they rallied and changed direction? Had they lost interest and returned back to the den site? My heart was sinking; we had lost them and with a fading light the chances of finding them again was negligible. Suddenly James in a burst of excitement shouted out “Look… look there in front of us…Honey Badger…Honey Badger…two of them!”
For ten minutes we witnessed two small Honey Badgers fight off and chase away five Wild Dogs. It was incredible! I had heard about Honey Badgers and how they are so ferocious but I never thought it would be like this. I never imagined that they would make a pack of Wild Dogs, one of the most successful hunters in Africa, run away with their tails between their legs.
In no time it was over…the pack had run off in one direction and the badgers in the other, both sets of animals consumed within the bush; engulfed in the darkness.