In August, I wrote of my startling encounter with a lone wild dog that was discovered interacting with Hyenas at their den close to camp. He was found chasing the young cubs around, and whining when they wouldn’t chase him.
This enigmatic, solo dog granted me the privilege again, just a few days ago. We came across him quite by chance while tracking a male cheetah. A most unfamiliar, high-pitched sound disturbed the quiet bush, and at first I thought it might be a distressed bird. But Richard Dlamini, the tracker I work with, knew exactly what it was. Wild Dog!! Aaaah, I had heard this strange sound before, but its rarity is more famous than the sound itself! We raced to the area where we thought the noise was coming from: when mobile, Wild Dogs are known to be able to cover the entire length of Londolozi in minutes, so a little speed was necessary.
When we found the lone dog, he was walking with great purpose and calling into the ground as he walked, which was intriguing enough in itself. After about 5 minutes, he lifted his head and we spotted an approaching Hyena, running to see what all the noise was about. This excited the dog strikingly and he ran towards the hyena. The greeting was almost playful and the hyena became very submissive. At one stage the pair touched noses together. It was only when another hyena came onto the scene that the dynamic changed: spurred on by the companionship, the wild dog gave chase to the two hyenas, and we could only follow, struggling to keep up. Eventually, the hyenas paused, exhausted from the chase.
Out of the woodwork crept another 5 hyenas, and the wild dog decided that his playful game was deteriorating into a rather dangerous scenario. Abruptly, he turned tail and ran north with 7 hyenas in hot pursuit. Each time he stopped and the hyenas caught up, he would whine and yelp, in an apparently desperate and lonely cry for friends.
I have not seen this wild dog since, but await the next encounter excitedly…who knows, perhaps it will be with another clan of hyenas as mates.
Written and Filmed by Sean Carter