The endangered African wild dog is a highly-skilled and successful carnivore that conducts precision based kills in packs. You’d be forgiven for thinking that these lithe mottled colour dogs are timid and adorable, given that they appear gregarious and ceremoniously playful in their demeanour . Looks, and sometimes social behaviour, can be deceiving. The rare African wild dog is a sleek predator, and rather brutal when they catch their quarry. The wild is the wild, and there’s no sugar-coating a kill!
Photographer Jochen and guests from Africa on Foot witnessed a wild dog feeding frenzy that was the direct result of a rather gruesome kill. Africa on Foot was one of the first to respond to a report of 6 wild dogs with a fresh kill. When they arrived, the dogs were heartily tucking into a pregnant impala, which was quite a macabre scene. Jochen said one of the dogs yanked out the oesophagus of the antelope with its powerful jaws, but the most horrific scene was when one of the youngsters casually yanked the foetus from the mother. A gruesome scene, but with such rapidly declining numbers of African wild dogs in the wild, it is vital that the dogs eat to ensure their survival.
While we didn’t witness the take down of the pregnant impala, we can only assume it must have been brutal. The dogs would have been engaging in playful behaviour and probably emitting a series of interesting vocalisations due to excitement overload. What ensued next was cruel mayhem, and a rather ruthless execution of an unsuspecting species. Did they know they would be getting two meals for the price of one?!
When the pack spots potential prey, they make no attempt to conceal themselves. The simply approach a entire herd and identify the weakest or slowest individual. In this case, it was a heavily pregnant impala – a vulnerable and an easy target. The dogs hunt using their eyesight, so will generally conduct kills during the light of day or if there’s plenty of moonlight at night.
When they’ve identified their quarry, they will rely on their stamina to tire out their prey, and the pack will then help to bring the prey down. The hunt starts off with a slow trot and escalates to a faster pace if their target puts up a chase. If the prey struggles to fall, the leader of the pack will slash the prey while on the run, until the pack catches up. They may even disembowel the prey while it’s still running, and this causes death via shock and blood loss.
A cruel way to find the perfect meal !
While it is phenomenal to watch a predator conduct a kill, at the same it’s heartbreaking. A kill always evokes mixed emotions from its onlookers. The blood-soaked dogs were well fed, but we said farewell to the possibility of new life due to enter into the Klaserie!