To see African wild dogs is a rare treat! To be able to stay with the pack as they move and hunt is very difficult indeed, as they move with startling speed through broken, rocky bush-land. When you are lucky enough to do so it creates memories that shall stay with you forever, such is the frenetic pace and excitement that surrounds a pack of hunting dogs.
Driving out in the morning with François and Daniela, who were with us for their annual stay here at Beho Beho, we all noticed how quiet it seemed; the airstrip was empty. No warthog, no giraffe, not even an impala! Just as I had finished telling Francois and Daniela that such stillness and quietness always triggers a feeling for me that a predator may be around – Roel radioed from camp!
Dogs at Christopher’s Baobab! A quick u-turn and we are on our way.
Roel keeps us updated of their movements from his elevated position in camp, but as we get closer his detailed commentary on where they are moving becomes less necessary. The dogs have an entourage – low flying vultures coming from far and wide and hyenas loping from various directions towards a central point – that are arriving to follow these relentless hunters – African wild dogs.
The hyena and vulture know that where there are wild dogs the chance of a meal is not far away.
We follow too. And there they are. Five heads pop up from behind a hill to come and see what we are up to.
We hold their interest for a brief moment before they are off on the run, with more dogs joining until they number 15. Down into a gully. We can’t follow. I make a quick decision. The next road is not far away; we will act quickly and try to cut across their path there.
A few minutes later we find them again. They have killed an impala ewe in that short time we had left them and are busy tucking in. But they are not alone for long as the vultures collect in the trees above, so too the hyenas arrive. A few hyenas are no match for the speed and agility of 15 wild dogs though, and after a few times of chasing off the hyena the dogs lose their patience with these persistent beasts. A few hyenas are cornered by the dogs and the dogs start a vicious assault. The area all around us turns to chaos. Wild dogs are chasing and attacking hyena all around.
After about 5 minutes of this the wild dogs have all but finished their impala meal and the hyena numbers are now equal to theirs. The wild dog reluctantly break off and leave the hyena to snuffle around for the scraps and bones.
As we follow, astonishingly they immediately come across and give chase to more impala. We speed along in their wake trying to keep up, but this time the chase takes them into the Msine River valley and we cannot follow.
We hear excitement and yelps from the wild dog and yet more hyena from down in the valley along with the crunching of bones.
They killed again…….Amazing.
We drive a little way and I stop so we can all take a few breaths and get over the excitement of what we have just witnessed.
We hope this pack sticks around for a while. Life is just that bit more exciting when a pack of wild dogs are close by.