Tag Archives: Lycaon Pictus

Painted Predators by Keith Jenkinson

Painted predators

The African wild dog (Cape hunting dog)

The spirit of “Ubuntu” is a philosophy that is on many a South Africans’ lips these days. The philosophy is based on all humans being interdependent irrespective of race, creed or social status. In short it boils down to the thought pattern of “I am because you are”. Few people realise how dependant we are on each other on every level of life and this impacts our survival as a species directly. As our behaviour evolves we can only hope that this mind set is adopted by all. And in many instances we humans can look to nature and gain valuable knowledge.

Most predators in Africa have a “eat or be eaten” outlook to life and this very aggressive outlook often leads to the decimation of a community due to intraspecific competition.

African wild dog

There is however one species that has evolved an exemplary strategy for survival. The African wild dog (Cape hunting dog) is co-operative in almost every aspect of its behaviour, when the pack is under threat the common vision and goal becomes most noticeable. The species is under grave threat but it keeps beating the odds by standing together.

Unlike most African predators wild dogs do not apply the often tedious and energy and time sapping stalk and pounce approach to hunting. Due to physiological adaptions Wild dogs are able to run any prey species to the ground with unmatched stamina. The pack will approach a herd of antelope select and individual and run it down with a kill rate of over 80% probably the most efficient mammalian predator. Even locating prey is generally done by trotting through the bush high pace until a herd is located. This behaviour often makes Wild dogs impossible to follow through the bush and sightings are often fleeting glimpses. But this behaviour and the generally small size (25kg on average) also contribute to the species endangered status. Dogs often “blindly “run into larger predators such as Lions and Spotted hyena that will kill them to eradicate potential competition as they tend to target the same prey species. There is a definite correlation between Spotted Hyena numbers and Wild Dog populations, as the Spotted Hyena is a well-known kleptoparasite (steals food) of wild dogs. Hyenas are able to crawl down dens and are thus also a huge threat to wild dog pups. Wild dogs are able to chase hyena off unless totally outnumbered. Thus they station pup minders at the den site whilst the pack goes off to hunt. Upon returning the hunters will regurgitate meat to the pups and the pup minders. The mother fulfils the baby sitting function most of the time but as the pups grow older the mother will join hunts to replenish her body after the toll of the pregnancy and providing for lactating pups.

The above will put into perspective how excited and privileged we are to be able to see these animals on a regular base and study their behaviour.

In 2008 a pack of Wild dogs visited Inyati and was seen surprisingly often. The pack ran into lions and hyena and a few individuals were killed by the larger predators, but probably because of the rich variety of prey the pack stayed relatively localised. This was quite a unique as the average size of a home range in the Kruger Park is 537 square kilometres. The pack numbers plummeted to a mere 3 individuals and we were convinced the now all female pack was doomed.

The alpha and beta females gave birth to two litters that survived well until the age of about six months when once again Lions and Hyena were responsible for huge pup mortalities. Only one female pup survived and was recruited into the pack.

The pack now seven strong stretched their home range and we all suspected they would disappear into the vast Kruger National Park and only be seen from time to time.

Cherished pack of painted hunters.

Their absence was short and some of the guides witnessed the alpha pair mating in February 2011. In mid-March the pack was found again and two females were sporting swollen mammary glands. Our excitement grew as the pack started inspecting abandoned termite mounds, searching for a suitable den site.

On a fresh morning in April 2011 the pack was found around a termite mound in the south. The dogs were obviously stressed and the alpha male kept darting into a hole in the mound whilst chirping excitedly.

The alpha and beta females kept a very low profile for a week or two as we decided to give them some privacy at the den by keeping game drive vehicles out for a while. As frustrating as this might be it is important to treat this critically endangered species with utmost caution. After many years of persecuting these animals it I the least we can do.

We decided to go have a look at the den-site in May 2011 and we were treated to our first glimpse of the pups.

A few weeks later the rangers made a horrific discovery, one female dog was found dead close to the den and at least two dead pups at the den-site.

A lioness with a bloodied face was seen the same morning and we presumed the dogs were once again attacked by their old foe.

Our hearts sank and we were convinced that the pups and mother were killed. At such a young age the pups need to lactate and would not survive without a mother.

The following day pups and a lactating female were seen at the den-site! The second female falling pregnant proved to be a valuable bit of insurance. We presume the beta female is the one that survived and she has since proven to be an exceptional mother.

The den-site was a hive of activity over the next few months, as the pups grew stronger they also became very accustomed to our presence and often came very close to the game drive vehicles for a closer look.

A lioness did visit the den-site but the pup sitters must have seen her coming and hid the cubs deep in the den. The co-operative breeding system proved its value in this instant. Even in a relatively small pack, sacrificing a hunter as a baby sitter to ensure the pups’ survival makes perfect survival sense.

The pack has started moving with the pups of late, the pups are now entering the next stage of their development and being taught the laws of the pack by the adults. All we can hope for is that the parents experience is passed on to the pups and they learn to negotiate the larger predators of the Sabi Sand and become productive members of our cherished pack of painted hunters.

Wildlife Journal April 2011 by Khimbini Hlongwane

This month’s sightings report compiled by Khimbini Hlongwane

At the onset of April it seemed bit cooler than March but did not last long and the temperatures rose quickly. Early morning temperatures have been chilly, down to about 17-20°C but warming up during the day to a pleasant 25-29°C. We have also been having strong blustery winds around midday, Sightings were great, and guests came back with interesting tales from the drive and walking safaris.

Leopard (Panthera pardus)

The leopard viewing have been phenomenal again this month, a new young male leopard was seen on our property on numerous occasions. This extremely relaxed male is called Balabas, apparently comes from the south east of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve. He is about three and half years old, and relatively young to compete with the males we have on our area so it’s Unlikely that he will stay in the area, he will most likely get chased by larger Xinzele and Khashane males.

We have to mention some sad news that Hlabankunzi’s one remaining sub-adult cub was also killed by the Xinzele male leopard. He had stolen a kill from Hlabankunzi and her cub. The cub was unusually old for a cub to be killed, would have been on few month before it independent. This means that she will come into oestrus and will start mating again hopefully produce a new litter with him as the father. We had already seen her flirting and trying to mate with the Xinzele male. We did follow up the next day and she had followed him down towards the river but then walked into the hippo dam female’s territory, a fight ensued and Hlabankunzi was chased back south to her territory.

Xinzele male leopard killed an impala ram, he fed on four couple of days and he was later join by hippo Dam female. She was tried in vain her to court him but he would have none of it and reacted aggressively towards her, perhaps because he had the kill or she simply was not in full oestrous.

Tlangisa female came upon another leopard’s kill which she dragged it to a tree. The next morning the Mapogo stole the carcass from her. Two of the lion brothers climbed the tree and fought over the carcass before it fell to the ground and the third brother claimed it for himself. Tlangisa moved off and climbed a nearby tree, watching the lions devours her meal and perhaps hoping they might leave some scraps for her.

 Lion (Panthera leo)

Ximungwe Pride is still quite fragmented around the west and we haven’t seen all 5 lionesses together for a very long time. The older lioness with the 8 month old male cubs had killed a huge male kudu by herself providing some good viewing for us, her two male cubs are looking very strong and healthy. The short tail lioness with the 2 four month cubs is also doing well and we have been seeing her regularly. Due to the females being quite disjointed they are vocalising a lot to communicate with each other, impressive to hear from the lodge in the mornings and evenings.

 One of the Mapogo (Mr T) has been mating with one of the females from the Ximungwe pride, the mother of the newest litter, this unfortunately suggest that the cubs are all dead. Two males from the Mapogo coalition, with four females from the Ximungwe pride and both sets of cubs, on a young giraffe kill on the western firebreak. The good news is that Mr T (the male who has killed all the cubs) was at the kill, and seemed to have accepted all the cubs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)

Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) Cheetahs haven’t visited us as frequently as they normally do. This is most likely due to the increasing number of lions we have in our area. However on one morning on our way down to the southern part of the reserve we located Makhamisa, a magnificent specimen of a male cheetah with hanging lip, we spent some time viewing him, he was posing for us classically on top of a termite mound.Elephant (Loxodonta africana)We have had some astounding elephant sighting this month, there are great number of herds with lots of young calves which are always entertaining. We also saw a few of really large bulls around the reserve it’s always great to get an opportunities to view these gentle giants.Elephant (Loxodonta africana)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer)

Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer)

The large herd of around 300 – 400 buffalo have been see regularly in the South, spending a lot of time in the open which has offered some amazing viewing. We watched them as they entered the waterhole, and as always, a large number of Red-billed Oxpeckers are close by to feed on the ectoparasites . There are many youngsters in the herd, with some of them only a couple of days old.

 

More than the big five…..

Wild Dogs (Lycaon Pictus) also called: African Wild Dog, African Hunting Dog, Cape Hunting Dog, Painted Dog, Painted Wolf, Painted Hunting Dog.

African Wild Dog,

We are very-very excited! Do you wonder why? Wild dogs are the second most endangered large carnivore in the whole continent of Africa (Simien or Ethiopian wolf being the most endangered) there are less than six thousand of these animals left on planet earth. South Africa’s largest park, the Greater Kruger National Park with size of 2.5 million hectares or 5.6 million acres of natural wilderness accommodate a mere 130 individuals of these very misunderstood extraordinary wolf like creatures . The main contributory factor to the decline in population numbers is persecution by mankind, until recently even within conservation areas. They have not denned on our property for over 13 years and now they have decided to have their pups on our traversing area. We understand how these animal cover massive ranges so to have them on our property is really special.

African Wild Dog

The pack lost a young female recently to a lioness but hopefully they get to raise a few puppies from the new litter. This leaves the two females, Alpha male, older short tail male and two beta male, so only six left. There were 2 females that fell pregnant in the pack, usually it’s just the Alpha female that breeds. And both females have now given birth in two different dens. As you will understand we are extremely sensitive around these animals so the den is closed for another two weeks just to let them settle in their den and to reduce pressure on the pack, after that the sighting will be opened for us to enjoy the new born pups, which is a scene which not many people will be fortunate to see in their life time as these animals may not be on our planet for long. Almost forgot to mention that these animals are intelligent, beautiful, fascinating social behaviour and are the most successful hunters of them all. Yes! You can be fortunate if you come visit us soon. Two weeks will feel like two years for some of us but for now we wait…………

In and around camp

Owing to our location on the bank of sand River, the landscapes around Inyati Lodge are permanently in a state of flux, and this has provided no exception. Xindzele male leopard paid us few visit, entertaining our guests during pre-dinner drinks. Buffalo bulls, nyala, warthog, monkeys and crocodile basking in the sun is one of the regular sightings around the lodge.

That’s all from us this month, We thank you for spending few moments with us in the wilderness, shared our experiences and joined our adventures, we are committed to keep you updated.