Day of the Dog

By Chad Cocking 

Last Friday was just one of those fantastic days at Tanda Tula. The Timbavati was literally heaving as the guides were spoilt for choice as to which animals to go and show their guests.

Did they want to go and see the two gorgeous Mbiri male lions resting in the Nhlaralumi riverbed a little downstream from camp? Or the Marula female leopard living up to her name in a Marula tree, west of the camp? There was also the option to go to the copious number of elephants moving all over the concession, or make a trip to the west and see a large herd of buffalo. But the real draw card was the possibility of finding Africa’s second most endangered predator, and my personal favourite, the African wild dog. As we had enjoyed some fantastic sightings over the last few drives, we decided to be bold and make a move towards the ominous looking clouds in the west in the hope that our luck would continue.

The safari started well with us finding that Marula was having a lazy day. She was still resting in the same Marula tree that she had ascended late in the morning. As she was showing no signs of waking up any time soon, we decided to carry on west. Once in that part of our concession, we were treated to stunning sightings of a herd of elephants, zebras, giraffes, wildebeest, impala, hyena and kudu before we eventually made it to an area where a large buffalo herd had just moved into a thicket near one of the dams. While quietly enjoying the buffalo, we were rudely interrupted by a crash of rhinos that arrived to drink at the dam.We were watching the rhinos when Antony radioed to let us know that his hunch had been correct, and the African wild dogs that he had come looking for had showed up, just at the very spot he had decided to turn off and wait for them. Needless to say, his guests were speechless! 

One of the reasons I love spending time with wild dogs is because of their active behaviour when they are on the hunt, and this afternoon was no different. Antony had already seen them chasing after impala, wildebeest and baby giraffes before we arrived. When we joined them, a nearby herd of impalas began scattering in all directions as the wild dogs set off after them,. Sadly for one young ewe, the pack’s incredible hunting efficiency struck and we found two of the 18 dogs with the kill right next to the road! It was as peaceful a scene as one could get considering exactly what we were watching. That was until a hyena suddenly stormed the scene and dashed in to grab the carcass off the two wild dogs. Chaos erupted! The dogs tried their best to get their kill back, but with only two of them, they didn’t stand much chance. Although, this didn’t stop them from nipping at the hyenas vulnerable rear end as it ran off with their hard earned meal.

Two weeks ago we read Luke’s blog about the incredibly rare and tragic sighting that he and his guests witnessed when a pack of hyenas killed and ate a wild dog (if you want to read this story click here). This time around, the rest of the pack were close at hand to come and give their two members some assistance in retrieving their kill from the hyenas. Within seconds, wild dogs came running in from all directions, and they immediately began harassing the hyenas to the point where they were able to retrieve the meal. The power of team work amongst the dogs was clear to see, and even though half a dozen larger hyenas came to investigate the commotion, without the same coordination as the wild dogs, they were never going to win this fight! The antics between these two apex predators carried on until it was too dark to view them anymore, and with the rumble of thunder getting louder, we decided to call it a night and started making our way back to camp.

It had to have been one of the best wild dog and hyena encounters I had ever seen, which helps explain why the guests were absolutely elated with what we had just witnessed; so much so that not even the rain on the way home could dampen our spirits!



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