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Wild and Beautiful

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Wild and Beautiful

Just before sundown on October 27th, a few critters wandered into the cam view on NK. The zoomie was busy but the camera was sitting just right.  We looked...we squinted our eyes and looked again...we elbowed our neighbors “hey...are those what I think they are??”  About that time the sound of muffled voices were heard through the mics at NK, and the zoomie started to follow the critters.  Yep, we all sat in awe as we realized they were African Wild Dogs, also known as the Cape Hunting Dog, or Painted Dog.
More often than not, they are just called Wild Dogs by the folks that live and work in Africa.  And there they were...a handful of them that the zoomie was moving in on, allowing us to see some of the interaction between the dogs. Their ears seemed half as big as their heads, very wide and rounded, unlike any dog we’re familiar with.  More voices...a jeep...and a big “yaaaooww” from someone in the jeep...a ranger I suspect, as this was a very rare sighting. 
The zoomie whipped the camera to the right and there were more of them! They were scattered around and coming together at the waterhole. The movement of the camera spooked one of them and stopped him in his tracks and his nose went up as his head moved while he tried to figure out what that was in the tree looking at him.  He soon forgot it and joined the others as they gathered near the waterhole.
Insanebushie, one of our loved and cherished NK staff members told us there were 24 of them.  She had jumped in the jeep and off they went to see these beautiful dogs of mottled color and endangered status. While we watched the dogs gather, socialize and eventually move on, Insanebushie and others were lucky to witness an amazing encounter. The Styx pride (a group of female lions and cubs) had made a kill, a zebra, and they were still up the road with full bellies and picking at the remains.  The pack of wild dogs came upon them and Insanebushie described the scene for us. The dogs stood barking at the lions, while one lioness moved and got in stalking mode. Perhaps sensing danger, an adult dog took the pups and headed east, while the remaining adults stood their ground, still barking at the lions. The dogs then began to back out of the area, with the alpha male being the last to leave.
Wild Dogs live in groups that are led or dominated by a single pair of monogamous dogs.  They are the only ones that breed, with the female having litters as small as 2 or as large as 20, which are cared for by the entire pack. Wild dogs, like wolves, are very social animals, communicating with voice, touch and actions.  They have been known to share food and even assist the weak or sick dogs in the pack.  
Like most members of the dog family, the African Wild Dog is a cursorial hunter, meaning they chase down their prey in an open and wide area.  Their success at hunting runs about 80%, with the dogs using vocal noises to “tell” each other details as they are chasing.  Though not as big as a hyena, their body mass ratio compared to their bite force quotient of 142 puts them on the top of the chart of any mammal in the order of Carnivora. After they have eaten in a frenzy of tearing and ripping, they return to the pack and feed the ones that could not join in, some of the females and the pups. The regurgitate the meat much like a bird feeds its young. 
Unfortunately, the African Wild Dog is on the endangered list thanks to diseases infiltrating from domestic dogs such as rabies, parvovirus and distemper. This along with the decline of their hunting areas due to human populations has taken a huge toll on the numbers of these dogs. They travel huge areas and now have to compete even more with the lion and hyena for food as the areas they can roam become smaller and smaller. Jacques, one of our rangers at Nkorho commented that the pack we see in these two videos is the biggest one in Kruger Park. And seeing them is so rare that some folks have been coming every year to Kruger Park for ten years or more and still haven’t seen them.
There is an amazing amount to learn about these dogs, of which we will share as time goes on. But for now, take a look at what stopped us all in our tracks on that special day at NK.

Then check out another visit within a few days, this second video you can hear their chirps and amazing sound.  Most casual fans of nature and its beauty don’t realize the privilege it was for us to not only get a glimpse, but to be able to see some of their behaviors right in front of our very own eyes. We might not see this again on live cams for another ten take a look...and enjoy!