How privileged are we that the words ‘wild dog’ and ‘mania’ can be used in a sentence to describe a Kruger safari? The fact is that these incredibly specialised predators are highly endangered with less than 6000 dogs estimated to remain in the wild. After the Ethiopian wolf, these gorgeous and dynamic painted dogs are the most endangered predator in Africa.
Here we sit in our open-top land rovers admiring the activity of a pack of about 30 wild dogs as they interact with each other, playing and grooming before moving off at high speed to hunt. As fortunate as we are to see lions almost every day at Africa on Foot and nThambo Tree Camp, the nighttime huntresses known as the Ross Pride lionesses generally lie around and snooze during the day (as lions do best)! The wild dogs are an absolute treat to watch as they play like puppies and communicate with each other in excitable ‘twitters’, while their white-tipped tails also act as methods of communication. Quite like we know domesticated dogs, wild dogs’ tail positioning can represent their moods – playful, relaxed, aggressive, and submissive.
Hunters with some of the most remarkable success rates in the wild, these dogs hunt during the day and take down their prey by tiring them out during a chase, and then disembowelling them. An impala feast is over in minutes, if not seconds, as the pack members take quick bites out of the flesh until there is nothing left but bones!
Sadly, African wild dogs were once thought of as vermin due to their unusual hunting techniques, and they were eradicated by farmers and game wardens (M. Emmett and S. Pattrick, Game Ranger in Your Backpack). Nowadays, they are admired for their superb skill and their unique pack behaviour, but unfortunately their population suffers due to habitat loss and fragmentation.
What we can say is that the frequent sightings we have had at Africa on Foot over the past month make us very fortunate safari-goers. Thrilled guests have walked away with some beautuful memories and photographs, while our resident media team – Kevin MacLaughlin and John Dixon – have captured this wonderful footage for our blog.