Dens are often made in termite mounds
I get the radio call the wild dogs, Lycaon pictus, are
hunting a herd of Kudu at Londolozi.
I set up the camera and the next second
the herd of kudu comes thundering past my jeep. There are yearlings, sub
adults and females, all within the range of this Super Predator.
Wild dogs have acute hearing and prey is often located using the large
A mature Kudu bull breaks ranks with the
herd and runs away from the fleeing herd.
Surely four dogs with a combined weight
of 100kg are not going for an adult Kudu bull that weighs 250kg. Stay
with the herd I tell myself, stay with the herd. I am wrong, very wrong.
When separated, the dogs will often communicate with a whooping call
Effectively, by isolating himself from the
herd, he selects himself. Possibly he thinks his great size is his
defense. There is no ways four small wild dogs will take him on.
Like me he has made a terrible mistake.
His mistake will cost him his life, my mistake will cost me a valuable,
dramatic sequence of wild dogs pulling down a Kudu bull.
For just seven minutes we lose the
pursuing dogs and the fleeing Kudu bull.
The coat pattern varies from dog to dog
When we arrive on the scene, the Kudu bull
is stone dead, not even breathing. With surgeon like precision the dogs
open the carcass and then begin feeding in earnest.
Not even an agitated herd of elephants
will deter them.
During hunting the wild dogs will elevate themselves to strategize the
In the space of one hour, 4 wild dogs had
reduced the Kudu bull by half. A rough estimate reveals 4 dogs have
consumed 50kg of meat or ± 12kg per wild dog. Is this possible?
Wild dog adults will gorge themselves and bring back meat for the pups
Is it possible that each wild dog has consumed almost half
its own body weight in just one hour? How they have done this, remains a
mystery to me, but their stomachs are bloated to the extreme.
Not only are the wild dogs feeding themselves, but also 5 puppies back
at the den. Bloated and sated, they return to the den
and under a full moon, they disgorge meat to the puppies.
The meat is disgorged over a period of time to help pups digest and to
allow each puppy to get its fair share
Each adult will disgorge meat to the pups
However they don't disgorge all the meat
immediately. Over a period of two hours, every one of 5 pups gets his
fair share of disgorged meat.
Within seconds of them leaving the kill, a
sixteen year old female leopard who we know well, arrives and feeds
The hyenas arrive and by morning the bones
are scattered far and wide and only a small patch of blood marks the
spot where the kill occurred.
With ruthless efficiency, the natural cycle
Although the reference books say that wild
dogs never return to their kills, two of the wild dogs return to the
kill site and carry bones back to the pups.
For thirteen weeks Londolozi rangers and
guests have had the privilege of watching four adult dogs successfully
raise five puppies. It has been a rare privilege.
The Londolozi pack remained in the den for 14 weeks before dispersing
As a boy I was told that wild dogs were
cruel and ruthless killers. We shot them on sight.
The den has narrow tunnels into which the puppies escape when danger
Today I have nothing but admiration for
this magnificent hunter and caring parent.
I have a few theories of my own regarding
Being a long distance runner and sprinter,
they cannot afford to carry a heavy coat like the cats. A hot coat would
overheat them when running. Especially on
the lower body, the hair is very thin. I believe this makes them
susceptible to cold freezing conditions in areas with harsh winters.
Adult wild dog excavating den
Wild dogs have slender legs, a light
frame, muscular body with large heart to body ratio. They have
outstanding endurance and an excellent turn of speed. Their design is
aerodynamically very efficient. Their slender legs however, will be less
efficient on hard
ground, rocky terrain and the hot sand dunes of the Kalahari. I believe
these are limiting factors in their distribution.
Because wild dogs spend so much time in
close contact with each other, they are susceptible to disease. In the
Masai Mara in Kenya, I began a film on wild dogs, only to watch the
entire pack of 40 die of rabies. This they had contracted from the Masai domestic dogs.
Apart from this, it is human beings that
are their biggest danger. Their system of roaming across vast areas, sooner
or later brings them into conflict with hostile human beings. I filmed a
pack of 8 wild dogs dead around a carcass poisoned by a farmer.
Ironically the wild dog is rated as the
most successful hunter of all the predators. Their success rate when
hunting is high, yet they remain the most endangered large predator on
the African continent.
Members of the pack are intensely loyal to
each other, the ultimate team players.
"One for all, all for one"
We could learn a lot from wild dogs.
Londolozi is moving into a drought
situation. It is at times like these that one sees animals and habitat under
severe stress. The fit survive and the weak perish and the predators
JV Big Cat Safaris have filmed a
photographed some incredible predator prey scenes recently.
Gavin Lautenbach watched "Mashabene Young
Male" drown an adult Nyala in Shingalana Dam.
This will change with the first rains, so
book your safaris now.