Tag Archives: African Wild Dog

Satara Summer 2021 – African Wild Dogs

We were still very fresh into our latest visit to the Satara area of the Kruger National Park when, on the 14th December, we came across a pack of seven African Wild Dogs, or Painted Wolves, near the Nsemani Dam on the H7 road leading to Orpen. To find such rare animals so early into our Kruger visit really was a good omen of things to come, and we were very excited even with the dogs resting so sedately in the heat of the late afternoon.

In the early morning of the 30th December we had just finished breakfast at the Muzandzeni Picnic Spot when the attendant alerted us to a pack of Wild Dogs rapidly approaching. We were just in time to see 10 of them run past the picnic spot and into the marshy area covered by long grass next to it. They paused a while on a little rise and then continued running, clearly seriously on the hunt. We decided to try and find them again on one of the roads leading from Muzandzeni.

As we left Muzandzeni we found three Spotted Hyenas following behind the Wild Dogs, no doubt hoping to score an easy meal.

First we tried turning south on the S36, but quickly realised that it leads away from the direction we last saw the dogs heading into, so we turned around. The S126 Sweni River Road might be the better option. Just as we started thinking following the S126 might be a lost cause too, we saw a hyena loping along. And then, just around the next corner, two dogs in the road – we found them again! Pretty soon all ten dogs were running in the road ahead of us, with the hyenas following some distance behind and just visible in the rear view mirrors every now and then. We followed the dogs for almost 10 kilometers, over the course of an hour-and-a-half, while they hunted. Every now and then they’d pause, take a scent trail leading into the long grass to disappear from view, only to return to the road a minute or two later. The dogs, with us in tow, decided against taking on a big warthog boar and then actually passed an impala ram standing in the long grass, not any the wiser how close he was to death. Just short of the Welverdiend waterhole however the dogs must have picked up a very promising lead as they left the road a final time, ears pulled back and bodies kept low to the ground. We waited around for several minutes, then searched up and down the road for a few kilometers either side of where we last saw them, but they didn’t re-appear. This probably means that they were successful at their kill.

Our plan for the morning of 31st December was a slow drive to a picnic breakfast at N’wanetsi. Our meal plans were slightly delayed however when we found another pack of Wild Dogs – nine animals – not 200m from the picnic spot! The dogs had a fresh kill and most were still feeding deep in a bush and not very clear to the eye. We stayed a few minutes and then moved to the picnic spot for a much needed comfort break and a quick bite to eat. When we returned to the dogs the whole pack had moved into the open and treated us to wonderful views.

The African Wild Dog is endangered, not only in South Africa but across the whole continent, where its range has been drastically diminished. South Africa is home to approximately 500 of these beautiful animals, about half of which live in Kruger National Park and adjacent reserves. For us to have seen three different packs during our 3 week visit to the Park was extremely lucky! The Endangered Wildlife Trust is again calling on citizen scientists to submit photos of Wild Dogs (and Cheetahs) taken during visits to the Kruger Park to their 7th Wild Dog Census, and Joubert and I will definitely be making our contributions.

Satara Summer 2021 – 14 December

It’s the summer holidays in South Africa and we find ourselves back at Satara, in the Kruger National Park. We encountered these Painted Wolves, or African Wild Dogs, on the road heading into the Park from Orpen Gate today. These are all Joubert’s photographs.

Painted Wolves on the move (and quickly!)

Coming across a pack of Painted Wolves, also known as African Wild Dogs, on the road to Skukuza was another special encounter from my solo visit to the Kruger National Park in May 2019. These animals are highly endangered – it is thought that fewer than 7,000 remain in the wild with the estimated 200 living in the Kruger National Park representing South Africa’s biggest population of the species. Seeing these energetic and attractive animals is therefore always thrilling!

 

African Wild Dog

Lycaon pictus

African Wild Dogs are large canids, standing between 60 and 80cm high at the shoulder and weighing up to 36kg. Their blotched coats have patterns as unique to each individual as our fingerprints are. Perhaps “Painted Wolves” would be a more accurate name for these enigmatic carnivores, one of Africa’s rarest species.

African Wild Dogs inhabit grasslands, marshes, savannas, woodlands and semi-deserts, where they hunt mammals ranging in size from rodents to buffaloes, though their main prey is medium-sized antelope like the impala, springbok, bushbuck, nyala and reedbuck. These dogs have great stamina, and tire out their prey by chasing it at speeds of up to 60km/h for distances of up to 6km. They are among the most successful of predators, with between 70 and 90% of their hunting attempts resulting in a kill. They kill their prey by disembowelment, and although it appears cruel is actually a much quicker death than the suffocation employed by lions and other big cats. They feed extremely quickly; a pack of nine dogs can completely devour a 100kg antelope within 15 minutes. African Wild Dogs are not dependent on the availability of drinking water, but will drink regularly if it is available.

African Wild Dogs live in closely-knit packs numbering from 2 to 50 and occupying vast home ranges. Within the pack a strict hierarchy is maintained, with only the dominant pair allowed to breed. Often all the animals of the same sex within a pack are related as new packs are formed by groups of the same sex leaving their maternal packs when they become adult at about two years of age and joining up with unrelated animals of the opposite sex. Wild Dogs hunt mostly in the early morning and late afternoon, and also on moonlit nights, and rest up in the shade during the heat of the day.

The alpha female gives birth to between 2 and 21 tiny pups annually, mostly during the dry season when prey is easier to come by. The pups are born in holes in the ground, usually abandoned aardvark or warthog burrows. All the pack members take excellent care of the pups in the pack, bringing food back to the den for small puppies and allowing older puppies to feed first at a kill. Wild Dogs are susceptible to a wide variety of infectious diseases, often causing entire packs to be wiped out, but it is bigger and stronger predators – lions, hyenas and leopards – that are the biggest natural threat to both adult and juvenile Wild Dogs. Their life expectancy in the wild is only about 10 years.

The African Wild Dog is considered endangered with their population estimated at most around 6,600 and still declining due to disease and human pressures. Centuries of persecution by hunters and farmers have decimated their numbers, eradicating them from most of their former range. Today African Wild Dogs occur in only a few scattered pockets across the continent. In total South Africa is home to only about 400 – 500 African Wild Dogs, of which roughly half occurs in and around the Kruger National Park, with smaller populations in a handful of other public and private conservation areas, including Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Tembe Elephant Park and Pilanesberg National Park.

Wild dogs on the hunt

Early one morning during our December visit to Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, we were travelling slowly along one of our favourite game viewing drives, the Sontuli Loop, on our way to a picnic breakfast.

Around a corner, we encountered a pack of African Wild Dogs running down the road in the opposite direction, passing our vehicle at speed. There was at least thirteen dogs in the pack (it is very difficult trying to count them as they duck and dive through the bush and into and out of the road). We made a U-turn and followed them; it is not every day you get to see wild dogs on the hunt! Every now and then they’d stop and scan the area around them for prey, giving us an opportunity to take some photos, before setting of again.

(Click on any of the photos to enjoy the sighting with us in a carousel gallery)

The kill was over in a blur. My eye caught a flash of dogs chasing an impala lamb into a thicket. In between the excited yelping of the dogs the impala lamb gave one of two feeble bleats, and then it went quiet. Suddenly the dogs burst out of the thicket, scattering in every direction, each with a small morsel of impala in their jaws to enjoy away from the rest of their hungry pack mates. A baby impala does not go far when it has to be shared between so many mouths.

Just as unexpectedly as they first appeared, the dogs were up again, heading towards the Black Umfolozi River and out of sight. All that remained on the scene was a lonely hyena lucky enough to have found some entrails, and a bunch of vultures descending from above…

Hyena cleaning up after the wild dog kill

Hyena cleaning up after the wild dog kill

 

Endurance

The African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus, also known as the Cape Hunting Dog or Painted Wolf) must be the African mammal with the most stamina – they’ll easily cover distances of over 40km in a day, trotting along at speeds of around 10km/h, and when hunting can maintain speeds of 48km/h for distances of up to 5km (though they seldom need to chase prey that far before taking down their quarry). At full speed, they’ll easily reach 64km/h!

We witnessed these wild dogs chasing after a herd of impala in the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park during a visit in 2008.

Endurance” is the theme for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge. Information from “The Behavior Guide to African Mammals”, by Richard Despard Estes.

Movement

On most occasions you’d encounter African Wild Dogs, they’ll be running somewhere, covering enormous distances in quick time. This photograph was taken near the Afsaal picnic spot, in the Kruger National Park.

We’re participating in the online adventure travel and photography magazineLetsBeWild.com‘s Wild Weekly Photo Challenge for bloggers. This week’s challenge is “Movement“.