Ten out of ten.
That’s literally all we should need to say for everyone to be able to walk away from this post smiling. And we’re not referring to the viewing quality of the den.
Nope, all ten pups are alive and well, and we’re almost at three-and-a-half weeks of watching them grow.
When we first discovered the den, the pups were little over two weeks old. They had probably only been coming out of the den for a few days at the most, and were hesitant to venture more than a metre or two from its entrance. Now, they happily bound off into the clearing and Tamboti thicket that flank their home, and even after the adults have left on the hunt, don’t feel the immediate need to rush back to the safety that the hole offers.
Having survived a raid by a number of hyenas and then a pride of lions, the den can certainly be said to have been well chosen by the adults, but the next few weeks are going to be critical for the ten small wild dogs.
With the apparent boldness they are developing comes a significantly higher danger level. A wayward pup only 20 metres from the den could easily be snapped up by a passing hyena. Martial Eagles have been known to snatch a wild dog pup, and we certainly don’t lack for those birds at Londolozi.
An exploratory nature in young predators can easily prove fatal.
Whilst larger packs are afforded the luxury of being able to leave behind a guardian at the den, this pack of two isn’t always able to do that. Although we regularly observe the male going hunting by himself, quite often the pair will leave the den together, and sometimes the male returns from a successful hunt, regurgitates for the pups and then goes hunting again with the female.
Animals are adaptive, and this pair of wild dogs are doing whatever they need to do to maintain their own nutritional requirements and make sure their pups are fed.
Apart from one or two scares (for both the pups and us), so far, so good seems to be the call on the den and its occupants.
It’s a state we hope continues until well after the pups are able to run with the pack, but in the African bush, nothing is ever certain.