The Linyanti concession area in northern Botswana, where Savuti Bush camp is situated, has a successful population of African wild dogs. Every year, sometime around the end of May, the wild dogs breed. This involves the digging of an underground den, which is then occupied by the female during the breeding event. We never know where exactly the dogs will choose to den each year, but this year they selected an area too far from our camp to be in our game drive area. So in June and July we had no wild dog sightings from Savuti.
The good news is that the pack denned successfully. They have now returned with nine new pups to the western part of their territory. The pups are over three months old, and can run almost as fast as the adults though. They are still very inexperienced though, and inorder to ease the transition for the pups from living in the relative safety of a deep hole underground to surviving 24 hours a day on the surface, the pack have been making use of temporary dens. Sometimes these dens are nothing more than a springhare burrow that has been widened by the alpha female. The adult dogs dig out the den quickly, and though the pups are no longer going inside during the day, the den nonetheless provides a safe refuge for them in the event of a large predator attacking the wild dog pack.
So far the adults are doing an excellent job of protecting the pups, and keeping them provisioned with fresh meat. They have been hunting impala and young kudu quite regularly in the area between Savuti and Dumatau camps.
The return of the dogs to this area brings with it an air of excitement for us, if not the poor impala. The dogs have massive amounts of energy, they hunt every day, and being able to witness the interaction amongst the adult pack members and the nine puppies is something quite special.