This last week has been absolutely amazing, with the Wild Dogs – or as I prefer, calling them Painted Wolves (derived from the meaning of their scientific name, Lycoan pictus) – being seen virtually every day from the 12 June 2011. Yesterday (15 June 2011) on route for a morning drive, as we reached the airstrip we had the rising sun, shimmering golden light over a pack of 13 dogs, laying down on the airstrip as 3 Spotted Hyaena watched them from the outskirts.
We sat with the dogs for some time, as they would get up and amble about, before collapsing again into a pile of white, black and yellow shapes, perfectly imitating a few large rocks strewn about. The pack is run by a very dark alpha male, which is aptly named Blacky. Eventually after some time, the dogs became more active, watching a herd of impala that were feeding just on the periphery of the airstrip.
A bit of stretching, and the dogs began to move, not so easy for the very pregnant alpha female, which looks like she is about to drop pretty soon. Some of the dogs started their move, but the impala were just one step ahead, so all attempts by the dogs to try and outsmart and run a weak impala into exhaustion failed. One singled out young impala ram displayed his strength and mocked the dogs with his exaggerated prancing, simulating the movements of a rocking horse. This shows his attackers that he is definitely not a weak or injured individual.
We had a beautiful lion sighting of the Manze boys but they weren’t alone, this time they were joined by three cubs, which would be sired by either of the males. In lion society, if a new coalition or single male takes over a pride from another male, infanticide takes place where he will kill all the cubs that are younger than a year, and in doing this it would bring the lionesses into oestrus sooner, ensuring that the new male’s genes are passed on. The lionesses then go through a pseudo-oestrus cycle for about 4 months where they mate with the male, but don’t fall pregnant. The reason being that if they do fall pregnant and another stronger coalition or male comes by and then dispatches the new pride males, the whole process will have to start all over again, making the time and energy spent towards embryonic development in vain. After the trial period, the females are sure they have a new pride male, which will stick around.
Even though this sounds cruel, it ensures that the new, stronger male’s genes are brought into the pride and the females come into oestrus together, so that there may be several lactating females, all able to look after one another’s cubs when their mothers go hunting.
So due to the usual behaviour of infanticide, these cubs would have been killed and not babysat by the two old boys, had the cubs not been their own.
As we crossed the Msini River whilst driving to go look at the hippo pool, we came across a lioness in the riverbed, undisturbed by our presence as she lay there just watching the world go by. This was the same female we observed sitting under the baobab tree the afternoon before.
Some beautiful birds this week – and yes I am a bit of a twitcher, but when looking at the iridescent, metallic sheens of green, blue and red of the sunbirds, drinking the nectar of the Leonotis around camp which are flowering – it is difficult not to be. On one morning drive to Lake Manze, we were greeted by a Grey-headed Kingfisher, displaying its purple back and brilliant chestnut front with contrasting white breast. Some other fantastic birds that have been seen include: Yellow-rumped Seed-eaters, Black-chested Snake Eagle, Martial Eagle and Crowned Eagle, African Skimmers, skimming over the waters of Lake Tagalala, and an Amethyst Sunbird.