Over the past few weeks, we have had many encounters with these amazing canids. When the wild dogs are around there is always a sense of excitement amongst the guiding team, as we are fully aware of the energy that they bring to the bush.
We are well into Autumn now and although we have had fantastic rains this year, the vegetation is beginning to thin out and transform to its more uniform khaki colour of winter. With this change we have also noticed a change in the behaviour of the alpha pairs of wild dogs that we have been seeing around Londolozi.
Wild dogs are cooperative breeders, which means that only one pair within the pack mates and produces offspring (this isn’t technically entirely accurate, but it’s the standard narrative). Within each pack, the alpha male and female will begin their courtship behaviour around the beginning of Autumn and will not leave each other’s side (much) during this time. On a few hunts that I have witnessed (one of my favourite things to watch) I have observed that the alpha male has been so focused on the alpha female that he hasn’t assisted in any hunts what so ever. Due to the female coming into oestrus at this time of year, she would be letting off pheromones that are sending the male into a heightened sense of testosterone in order to begin the mating process.
Once successful and the alpha female has fallen pregnant, the pack will begin the process of looking for suitable den sites to raise the pups. She is pregnant for about 72 days, ample time for the pack to find a suitable den site. Den sites are usually old termite mounds, perfect places of sanctuary for the pups.
As winter approaches there is anticipation in the air that one of these packs will decide to den their pups on Londolozi’s land.
Before 2020, wild dogs had not denned on Londolozi since 2010. It took a very unique pack of two to decide to den in the central parts of our reserve. This very special pair tugged on all our heart strings for the following couple of months and gave us all some hope in the middle of lockdown. The pack came into all our lives when we all needed it most, and the media team that was still at Londolozi made sure we were kept up to date with the ins and outs of our new favourite family.
From them has come further hope that we will not have to wait another decade to have wild dogs den on the reserve again. Over the next couple of months, we will be keeping a close eye on the few packs that move through Londolozi and wish as hard as we can that they decide to utilise our beautiful land.
Keeping our fingers crossed…