I arrived at Londolozi during December of 2010, and a lot of the Wild Dog discussions still revolved around the incredible viewing that had been enjoyed during the preceding winter.
For two years running, one of the local packs had denned on the southern reaches of Londolozi (see map below), and the sightings that the guiding team and their guests had enjoyed over those two seasons were unparalleled. With the adults from the pack departing like clockwork almost every morning and evening to hunt for the tiny pups, one could plan almost to the minute when one needed to be at the den to follow them on their chases.
And that was the last time they denned here.
Every winter since (winter is when the dogs give birth), the Londolozi Guides and Trackers have fervently hoped that we will be graced with a consistent two months of incredible wild dog viewing, but every year we have been disappointed. We have come agonisingly close a few times. Twice in the last 8 years, a pack has denned so close to Londolozi’s boundaries that we could actually hear the pups yipping and squeaking when the adults came home to them. We could literally see the tree at the base of which the dogs were denning. Yet the den remained, less than 100 metres past the limits of our traversing area.
We have been given consolation prizes once or twice. In 2015 in particular, the pack denned just next door to us but came hunting onto Londolozi almost every day. And when they moved dens for the first time they moved onto Londolozi’s north-west, where they stayed for about 6 weeks. That was an incredible month-and-a-half. But the PRIMARY den is where the real gold is to be mined; tiny pups, creeping out of a hole in the side of a termite mound and seeing the world for the first time… That would be first prize.
And now, once again, we are starting to enter that hopeful period in which we anticipate one of the local packs giving birth on Londolozi almost a decade later.
We recently watched the alpha pair of one of the Sabi Sand packs mating, and the rest of the pack seemed to be prospecting for potential den sites in holes in the side of termite mounds.
We’ve starred in this movie before though; I think it was in 2012 or 2013 when the heavily pregnant alpha female of one of the packs was actually in a den, staying put for the day, and we thought we weer home and dry, and then 24 hours later they had run right off our reserve and were denning were we couldn’t traverse. It was truly heartbreaking.
I think that might have been the problem all these years; we’ve been wishing for it so hard, we’ve jinxed it. We need to reverse engineer our approach…
I think instead of our usual united wishing, we’re going to have to be completely selfless this time around instead. We need to pour all our energy into hoping that other reserves are the ones that get lucky in a couple of months time. It actually hurts me to say that. But we’re out of options here.
We are so fortunate with the rest of the wildlife we see, we can manage for a few months in the knowledge that others are watching tiny wild dogs pups stumbling around outside their den. Surely.
If this doesn’t work, then I give up!