The end of the impala rutting season brings much excitement to the guiding team here at Londolozi. It is not only a time when all the frantic activity of male impalas really intensifies but it marks the time of year when the wild dogs gear up to start denning.
This year was no different and the speculating started early. On a few occasions in May a pack of these endangered canines was followed and were seen digging in abandoned termite mounds where they set up their dens. The ranger and tracker teams in each of these sightings were sure that the spot where they had just witnessed digging was surely the place for the next den site and for the alpha female to give birth.
Less than a week ago one such small group of adult dogs was seen and followed back to the rest of the pack where the six new additions were around to enthral guests, guides and trackers alike. The excitement was tangible of both the pups and the onlookers. Fresh meat was regurgitated in a flurry of activity and it was snapped up almost before it could hit the ground. The wild dogs were left for the evening and we all hoped that they would stick around.
There was great disappointment, to say the least, when the dogs eventually settled and it was discovered that the den was literally a stones throw, for a few of the rangers that is, from our boundary on the neighbours land. The prospect of a guaranteed short term wild dog sighting slipped through our fingers. We did however occasionally enjoy small hunting parties that made their way onto the large open areas in the north of the reserve.
After an incredible tracking session the following morning a termite mound was discovered with some new inhabitants. A termite mound that seemed to be perfectly prepared to accommodate a pack of one Africa’s most endangered predators. Had this den been kept in mind from a few months ago? Had the dogs planned to have this as their next stop all along?
Since the discovery of this den we have spent quite some time there and had some incredible sightings of both the pups and the adults interacting with one another. There is a particular spike in activity in the mornings and evenings when we are lucky enough to catch the adults returning from making a fresh kill. A small window into the lives of these rare canines has been something we have hoped for, for some time now and we are finally enjoying the great opportunity. The pups are growing fast and will soon be strong enough to run with the adults that will again adopt their nomadic lifestyle but until then we hope to see more of these special animals at their temporary home.
Written by Simon Smit
Photographed by: Simon Smit, Kate Neill, Trevor McCall-Peat