It’s that time of the year again! As Autumn approaches fast it’s hard not to wonder and dream that a pack of Wild dogs will den on Londolozi again. It’s something the ranging team talks about on a daily basis at this time of year. We can’t help ourselves but reminisce about the den from last year.
Wild dog viewing has been incredible lately, coupled with seeing a heavily pregnant female – this information has has sent most of us into a frenzy. Thinking about all the possibilities to come, I started to wonder why I am so fond of these amazing canines.
Wild dogs are only as strong as the weakest member of the pack
View this post on Instagram
Wild dogs are extremely social animals and care for each member of the pack deeply. Being cooperative breeders, where only the dominant pair, referred to as the alpha male and alpha female (occasionally a beta pair) will mate and produce offspring. With only one pair giving birth, the whole pack rallies together to protect and raise the pups as their own. They all have a vested interest in the offspring of the alpha pair. The normal makeup of a pack is a group of newly independent related females who have sought out and joined a group of newly independent related males. Therefore each adult member of the same sex is related and determined that their family genes are passed on through their sibling.
They are dedicated and compassionate team players whereby they will often care for the older and injured members of the pack who may fall behind while on hunts. The healthy and fit members will consume as much as they can and on-demand, regurgitate some of this up to feed the unfortunate members of the pack who were late to the meal. During the denning period, the pups will be left in a den with at least one, sometimes two babysitters, who will also be catered for through regurgitation upon the return of the pack. This is also how the pups are fed once they begin feeding on meat.
Wild dogs are highly successful and entertaining hunters
View this post on Instagram
If any of you have had the privilege of witnessing wild dogs on a hunt, you’ll agree with me that they are some of the most thrilling and high paced sightings one can have while in the bush. It isn’t necessarily about being there to witness them actually catch the prey, but rather the adrenaline rush from being involved in the chase as they are galloping through the clearings in hot pursuit of their next victim.
Wild dogs are incredibly fast-paced animals that have unbelievable stamina. Some wild dogs have been recorded running at just under 70km/hr for up to 5km (43mph for 3miles). That is a terrifying thought for any prey animal out here. Armed with this ability, the wild dogs employ a strategy whereby they trot along as a group in search of any prey, they hardly are ever seen walking. As soon as a target is spotted and they have the time they fan out, they will attempt to stalk the prey slowly hoping to get as close as possible before the prey flees. From this moment on or if they were to stumble across something that takes flight straight away, the wild dogs kick into overdrive and the chase is on.
When hunting there is a sense of excitement in the bush like no other. Sometimes absolute pandemonium ensues and the herd of impala bombshells in every different direction, each one for itself. The wild dogs each lock on to a target and try and chase it to exhaustion or if possible catch it before then. If other wild dogs are nearby they will also help in pulling the impala down. Having the highest success rate of any predator we see here, they occasionally miss and the impala gets away. This then calls for the hopes that one of the other dogs were successful and they often come bounding back following the sounds of feeding hoping to find a few other members of the pack.
Wild dogs are constantly on the move
Wild dogs do not have a territory that they actively mark out and defend in the way a male lion or a leopard would. They move around in what is known as a home range. Therefore they do not actively defend an area from other wild dogs. Essentially what they are in search of is open space to pursue an abundant population of prey species. With the speed and distance that they can cover in a single chase, it is no wonder that the home ranges they cover can be significantly larger than the entire Londolozi property. Often when wild dogs are seen it is only for a few days at a time before they move on to the next hunting ground beyond our borders. Sometimes venturing as far afield as the Kruger National Park within 24 hours.
These highly endangered animals always have a way of exciting everyone around them while striking fear into any potential prey that is in close proximity. We will keep a close eye on the wild dogs that move through Londolozi over the next couple of months and keep our fingers crossed that they once again decide to utilize our land for a den site. For now, we can only live in hope that these dreams are turned into a reality soon.