Whilst on an afternoon game drive with Paddy Hagelthorn of Savanna Private Game Reserve, earlier this month, I had the privilege of sighting an active wild dog den.
The African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus) is the leader of the pack for a few reasons. They are the only large canid endemic to Africa. They are known for their ferocious hunting style which involves incredible teamwork and expert communication within the pack. They are highly social, highly intelligent and sadly, due to loss of habitat and disease, endangered too.
This was my first ever sighting of an active den. The sighting of a new litter like this lifts my spirits! It means that this year, this unique predator species has been given a fighting chance at survival, thanks to the co-ordinated conservation efforts of many. The mottled mass of furry pups playing together in the soft amber sunlight of a winter afternoon in June offered me a rare glimpse into their world. Just a few meters from me were around eight little super predators in the making. Yipping and snapping playfully at each other outside the termite mound that they call home, these dappled bundles of fur were just getting to grips with the painted wolf that crouches within each of them. Whilst the rest of the pack are out hunting, the puppies were left under the watchful eye of but one adult – a short distance away, she kept a wary eye on said bounding bundles. When the pack returns with a meal, the puppies must feed well on what meat is regurgitated by the adults. The nature of the Wild Dog is nomadic and it won’t be long before they are on the move once more. And for that, they will need all their strength and wits about them to keep up.
There are many organizations doing excellent work to preserve and foster the survival of the African Wild Dog. WWF, The Endangered Wildlife Trust and WildlifeAct to name but a few. Each offers unique ways to get involved.