The last few weeks have produced quite a few sightings of African wild dogs and there is nothing to get the adrenaline going like trying to keep up with a hunting pack. It’s a ‘hold on tight’ warning before pulling off the two-track and trying to avoid dips and bumps as we try to keep up with the relentless pace set by the pack. In fact if they are really chasing potential prey in earnest it’s near impossible to keep up.
However we have managed to stay with the pack and watch them try to disrupt a troop of baboons, which is ambitious even for wild dogs as big male baboons are immensely strong and have a set of canine teeth that you definitely want to keep away from! This resulted in a back and forth chase and a stalemate broken when 3 big male baboons asserted their authority and chased the offending dogs away.
Next target – Wildebeest and a prolonged effort to force one away from the herd and isolate it for the kill, again though their efforts are thwarted as they are presented with swishing horns from the defensively formed herd at every rush.
Abandoning that, almost immediately impala are spotted. Too small to stand their ground like the wildebeest, it’s a straight chase with us bouncing away behind quickly losing ground on the action. After about a kilometer of chase the impala runs into riverine forest with the dogs in hot pursuit. It’s the end of the road for us though, so we take a deep breath and collect ourselves after the action and head onwards.
On another occasion, we bump into the dogs and they are already in the easy loping run that covers ground well and can quickly turn into a chase as soon as a target is spotted. We swing the vehicle around and follow. Into the river they go and into a thicket on the other side, immediately we realize something is not right – a chilling braying and growling emits from the bushes. The dogs have encountered a leopard! A few moments after the growls subside out trots a dog with an impala leg. We hope the leopard had eaten its fill before it was chased off of its hard earned meal.
Towards the end of one afternoon, we bump into some lions and are busy watching the pride as they start to stir after a long, hot day of rest, when an impala male is suddenly spotted running at full pace right towards the lion. What is it doing? Running away from wild dogs of course! One lioness takes advantage of this and takes up the chase of the impala, she times her burst a little early though and the impala veers and bounds ahead of her.
The dogs pull up faced with the pride of lions and the following interaction between two predators is a fascinating stand off to watch. One lioness does try to chase two dogs. But the dogs have got the lions number and seem to know the safe distance from which to harry the pride without repercussion.
What amazes me is that these are just glimpses into the lifestyle of a pack of wild dogs! In one hour on one of these drives they affected the lives of 6 different species of animals – baboons, wildebeest, impala, warthog, giraffe and lions. If we then include the hyena and vulture that often follow the pack – wild dogs just send everyone into hysterics, including us!