The African Painted Dog. They’re Wild!admin On 23 August, 2015
My favorite creature to encounter…I forgot cheetah….well one of my two favorite, no, forgot the dwarf mongoose. Well, one creature I will never pass up, and one of my many favorite creatures is the African Wild Dog…or is it called the African Painted Dog, or the African Hunting Dog. It has several names, but it is all dog. It is also one of the most endangered mammals and the largest population is in southern Africa. I first heard of the Wild Dog while reading Blixen’s Out Of Africa. She wrote of seeing hundreds running before her while she was driving cattle to the British Army in the south during the war with Germany. When I looked them up, I read that they were nearly extinct. In fact, they were very close to a memory. Most of all what saved them were several breeding and protection programs in the last part of the 20th Century and even to present day. They are not out of the woods by any means as their population is estimated to be between 8,000 and 10,000.
I saw my first dogs in 2001, and it was a brief encounter as two scouts ran past. My next encounter was in Kruger Park early one morning in 2003. We left Pretoriuskop Camp and headed over to the Sabie River Road. It was a good morning as we saw lion and leopard on the way. I came around a bend and saw what I took to be many many large piles of elephant dung in the middle of the road. Coming closer, a head raised and turned. “look at all the hyena,” I said. Then, “Holy shit! Dogs!” There were 14 of them. Within seconds, they were all up and running around with the excitement of the first car of their day. Like many dogs do, a few jumped up into my window and smelled around then went on to play. There was not one sign of a threat from them. They are, well, dogs.
Wild dogs have a high social structure. They are pack animals often 10 to 15 adults and sub-adults, but a pack can be up to 30 or more (they often split before that point, though, when some of the pups get older). The mating is generally by the alpha male and female. When a female gets to breeding age, she usually leaves the pack and joins another. The males usually remain in the natal pack. The numbers of packs encountered in Kruger prove that they do not over breed.
The wild dog is a pack hunter and their most common prey are mid-sized antelopes. I’ve witnessed two hunting kills, and understood that the antelopes (a duiker and an impala) barely hard time to feel pain before they were, literally, torn to pieces. After the kill, I witnessed great excitement amongst the younger dogs including what appeared to be reenactments of hunts where one pup would pretend to be the victim and the others practices mock bites. Like all dogs, they settled down and chewed on bones or skin. I took over 700 photos on my first kill, and it wasn’t until after the kill that I could actually aim and focus on individual dogs or activity. When I realized the kill was happening, the only thing I could do was hold down the shutter release and hope something came out. Amazingly, I had some super snaps.
I’ve seem them in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi and Mkhuze several times. In Mkhuze, I had just alighted from my car at a hide when 10 of them ran past me within 3 meters. I’ve seem them on many trips up into Botswana in Moremi and Chobe, but I’ve had most of my sighting in The Kruger. Like many people who frequent Kruger National Park, I don’t often tell people where I see anything. I have my favorite roads and drives, so why should I give away the knowledge I have gained from over 2,000 days in Kruger. I rarely frequent the main roads which are too crowded for my type of viewing, so one can gather from that they are usually found on the dirt roads. The best thing about this is that the vast majority of self-drive safari visitors to Kruger never leave the tar road. They are tar people. I am a dirt person. Et toi?