I say “Second, first view of wild dog puppies“ as back in May we were treated to some incredible views of Londolozi’s first wild dog den in a decade.
It’s been over two months since the pack of two and their pups left Londolozi. The pups were around 2-3 months old when they scurried off into the wide blue younder, leaving us with fond memories that will last a lifetime. Just as one chapter ends though, another begins. A different, much larger, pack of 13 dogs gave birth to 11 pups just west of Londolozi’s northern sector in late June/early July.
Wild Dogs will normally keep pups safely at a den for the first two to three months of their lives. They are incredibly vulnerable to predation from all angles at such a young age, thus the less time spent alone above ground, the better. However, as they grow and wean off milk and onto a more strictly meat-based diet, the adults begin to move them short distances. We’ve now reached this milestone in this pack’s timeline, which has got us smiling!
We were ecstatic as we saw the 11 pups for the first time. At this age, they are like perfect miniature versions of the adults. Only five adults were with the pups, some of them with evidence of blood on their necks from a successful kill earlier that morning. We knew another seven or eight dogs must be somewhere in the area, based on the information we had received on the number of dogs in this pack.
Still early in the day, the dogs proceeded to hunt again. With so many mouths to feed, the pack will sometimes need to kill more than once on a hunt for each individual to receive enough food. We ended up sitting with a small number of adults and the full compliment of pups, people and dogs alike all awaiting the return of the other dogs anxiously. We knew that if the second hunt was successful, the adults would return to regurgitate food for the pups, sending them into a frenzy of excitement. Watching wild dogs greet, play and interact is exhilarating and particularly heart-warming – especially with man’s affinity for domestic dogs.
At one point, the adults tasked with pup-sitting moved a little distance away. This left just us with the pups. We expected them to be a bit wary of the Land Rover, having had very limited exposure to this strange, large object. On the contrary, they came right up to us inquisitively.
It didn’t take long before we heard the characteristic “Hoo-hoo-hoo” contact call of the returning adults. The pups rushed towards the sound, as the returning adults came bursting out of the thickets. The excitement displayed by wild dogs when they re-group is truly unique!
An elaborate greeting ensued between all of the wild dogs, with pups and adults running in all directions around us! It was the heart-warming moment for which we had been waiting. The hunt must have been unsuccessful as there was no regurgitation that took place, however with some of the pack tinged red in blood, they seemed satisfied with what they had already caught that morning.
As I write this I hear that the same pack was seen again , this time fighting off a clan of hyena along the banks of the Sand River west of the Londolozi camps. It seems that we are lining up for some more exciting wild dog and pup viewing again!