On each of our first four Kruger trips together, we saw wild dogs. How rare is that? Well, on our next 100+ trips we saw none, in spite of our often optimistically patrolling the roads where sightings had been reported earlier the same day.
That changed last Friday, when we came upon a pack of 6 adults and 6 pups near Malelane. And we had about 40 minutes with them, before they moved off (might have been more than 40 mins … time seems to stop, or warp or something, when you’re with these elusive and fascinating predators).
Rather than rave on at length – which we certainly could – here’s our email exchange with scientist & wild dog researcher Grant Beverley, of the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Kruger group. They greatly value sighting reports with observations of behavior, and pictures. It helps a lot with their work to manage and protect the remaining wild populations of this rare animal species.
Here’s a video of a wild dog pack at about 1600h on 15 Aug, on the western side of the H3 main road around 3km north of Malelane gate. Weather partially overcast and mild. The pack comprised 6 adults and 6 pups. One adult was collared.
They were initially resting with the adults loosely spread in shady spots about a 40M circle in semi-open grassland, and the pups closely grouped together beneath the cover of some thicker bush off to one side, about 20M from the perimeter of the adults’ location. Twice in about 15 minutes single adult dogs (two different individuals) rose and visited the pups’ position for a few seconds’ contact before returning to their own resting places.
Then the adults progressively roused and began greeting and play behavior, before collecting at the pups’ location. The whole pack then romped about together for several minutes, with increasing twittering.
After that, several adults came very close (<2M) to our vehicle on the elevated roadside, while the others and all the pups moved off to the north. Two adults remained briefly after the others had passed from view, then they in succession moved off with the last dog providing the final beautiful shot in the video as he trotted coolly away after the departing pack.
Best regards, and thank you for the inestimable work that you and your colleagues do for Africa’s wildlife and for all of us.
Paul Martin & Les Roberts
Dear Paul & Les,
Thank you for sending through this detailed report of your Wild Dog sighting. This pack is a splinter group from the “Skukuza pack”. These six adult dogs split from the Skukuza pack in March this year and it was discovered shortly after their split that an adult female was pregnant.
The new splinter pack has been spending most of their time along the Crocodile River on the S25 and around Berg en Dal camp. The pups started moving around with the adults two weeks ago with regular sightings in the last week. The female with the collar was darted in March 2012 near Stevenson Hamilton.
And finally just to explain why the successful establishment of a new pack is a big deal; a pack of wild dogs will habitually range over several hundred square km or more, so space to live is always a hard-won prize for them. And as for the 6 pups, if they can survive the attentions of lions (who always try to kill wild dogs on sight) the pups will within a few more months have doubled the original splinter pack’s numbers of effective hunters, which will multiply the pack’s hunt success rate, and thus significantly increase this new pack’s long term prospects for survival as a viable, cohesive unit.