Wild dogs are Africa’s most exceptional endurance hunters. A pack can hunt for several kilometres, using impressive flanking movements to wear their prey down. The chances of a hunt ending in favour of the dogs? Between 70-80%. To put that into perspective, lions and leopards trail behind with a measly success rate of 30%.
Armed with such an excellent arsenal of skills, there’s little wonder why herds of puku are easily spooked by the distinctive husk of wild dogs. And with population numbers increasing, the exhilarating experience of watching a hunt or spotting the dogs is becoming a staple of South Luangwa game drives.
Why wild dog populations in South Luangwa are recovering
Once considered a pest, wild dog numbers have dropped over the last couple of decades. Their populations are now restricted to reserves in East and Southern Africa, with regular sightings hard to come by due to the dog’s nomadic nature. But in South Luangwa National Park, change is in the air.
Once only seen during Zambia’s Emerald Season, wild dogs are now making appearances throughout the year. The park has the fastest growing wild dog population numbers, making it a keystone in ensuring this species doesn’t slip further down ICUN’s endangered list.
South Luangwa boasts favourable hunting and breeding conditions for wild dogs
With no cattle farms around the national park, Zambia’s wild dogs are generally free from human conflict.
Unlike its neighbouring countries, farmers in Zambia aren’t poisoning their dens or shooting the dogs on site. There is also little interaction with unvaccinated domestic dogs, often the primary source of transmitting diseases to wild carnivores.
Zambia’s successful carnivore programme
The biggest player in the success of South Luangwa’s wild dog population lies with the Zambian Carnivore Programme (ZCP). Since 1998, the non-profit has rolled out a variety of conservation efforts such as de-snaring, land-use planning and more. The ZCP also conducts regular vaccinations within local communities to reduce the spread of disease between the different animals.
It’s a cohesive strategy that has helped the park’s wild dog population grow to over 200 individuals and improve the number of packs found in the valley.
How to see wild dogs in South Luangwa
The best way to see these elusive creatures is to sign up for a game drive. Safari guides know how to read the signs of the bush, making it easy to track down a pack on the hunt or a den.
But if you’re searching for a more intimate experience, explore the African bush on foot. South Luangwa National Park is the home of the walking safari, and if a den is nearby, it’s an excellent opportunity to observe these endangered creatures from a distance, without the sound of a roaring engine.
For guests staying at Track and Trail River Camp in South Luangwa, a wild dog spotting is an unexpected safari highlight. Their resurgence in the park means that the exhilarating scene of wild dogs hunting down their prey will be one that future generations can count on.
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