Tag Archives: Pack of Wild dogs

January ’15 Field Guide Report by Matt


Giraffe are vulnerable to predators when drinking, here she had the rest of the journey looking own for any danger.


600 buffalo herd

Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer caffer), also called African buffalo, the largest and most formidable of Africa’s wild bovids (family Bovidae)

There still hasn’t been a drop of rain. Only the most stubborn of mud wallows still has water and most of the reserve is dry. The crests between the drainage lines are always the first to show the signs of drying out and the bush is not as thick as it could be.Wild dog pack It is still really green though and the animals have been out in full force. The dryness of the bush has caused the animals to cling to the water sources and so we have had all the animals taking an early pilgrimage. The young elephants don’t mind and we have seen them frolicking in the shallows.

Elephant herd

Elephant have a highly ordered and structured social fabric.

Huge herds of buffalo and the odd cheetah have been coming into the south of the reserve and for about two weeks the wild dogs have been around making all the bushbuck and impala rethink the lifestyle the river offers.Lioning around

The Majingies and the Othawa’s have seemingly moved onto the next stage of their relationship, not that I’m anthropomorphizing the situation at all. The lions have been seen everywhere together and the four brothers have been following the Othawas everywhere they go. Majingilanes

The Xhimungwes have remained ever elusive from the male lions and while they have been around they have kept to the central to western part of our traverse. The sub-adults are getting big now and I hope that the young females are accepted by the males.

Ximhungwe pride

Ximhungwe pride

So Hlaba Nkunzi has not been around for a while as she has moved east to accommodate the Schotia female her last offspring. The update from the eastern reserve is that she has a new cub with its sibling having been killed by hyenas. On our side though we have been seeing Schotia, Xhikavi and Tlangisa with fair regularity and they have been giving us some good viewing by making plenty of kills and putting them in trees for us. Leopard familyDewane has decided he wants more of Nyeleti’s territory and he has been camping on the eastern side of the camp waiting for Nyeleti. The two had a tense stand-off over an impala kill that ended up with Nyeleti retreating. It never got physical but rather the two leopards were calling at each other at a respectful hundred meters, they salivated and looked thoroughly menacing. Tlangisa’s cubs are almost as big as she is now and they don’t know what it feels like to be hungry. She keeps them full all the time and never stops protecting them, we have seen her often putting her body on the line and has taken on three hyenas at a time.

INY Mom and cubs

The new sand banks that have formed on the river look great and really lend to having a great winter if we don’t get late rains, the birds are all in full breeding and the insects and butterflies are still landing from perch to perch. All the bees are full of pollen as they go out of their way to make honey, their little legs are fat with the yellow powder making them easy to see as they float about. On drinks stops we often see the fireflies floating and flitting at night adding to the starlight show.Buffalo

That’s all from Matt for this month. We thank you for spending few moments with us in the wilderness, sharing our experiences and joining our adventures. We are committed to keep you updated. Please follow our Facebook page for daily updates.


Keith & Francis – Managers
George (Head Guide) & Solly (Tracker)
Khimbini (Senior Guide) & Rodger (Tracker)
Matthew (Senior Guide) & Nelson (Tracker)

This month’s sightings report compiled by Matthew Brennan. Photographs by Khimbini, Keith and Matthew.

December ’14 Field Guide Report by Matt

Carmine-bee-eaterEverything is green and lush and having finally seen the carmine bee-eaters all the migrating birds are present and accounted for. The Red-billed Quelea’s are flocking which for me is sign of subtle change, when everything is at its most plentiful. I can’t help feeling though that we have been a little cheated with regards to rain this season, and the river only came up once. It doesn’t mean anything significant off hand, rain like anything has years of more or less. However while on the topic the reality of global warming will lead our area to receive more rain steadily as the warmer air will be able to support more moisture. Red Billed Quelea_Male

The good news for us, though is that the area we are in has led to a lot of the animals all in a kind of midrange for them. So change should be mild and predictable for them with certain species moving off and certain species moving in. It is oddly humans that need to adapt by building bigger and better river crossings and constant maintenance of roads and general water damage. The animals have the freedom in the Greater Kruger that if they don’t like a place within the limits of their species they move away. It is in the extremes of climates that the specialists will take show the effects of global warming the most. Polar bears are the best examples but all fringe species are showing the first signs of minimization.Sand river

This reserve is renowned for its big cats and we have had them a plenty. Dewane has pushed far east and Nyeleti is making way for him. He has really grown into a beast of a cat. Xhikave and has been seen a few times on kills, being typically xhikave she has kept them in the thickest brush, except for the impala lamb the hyenas tried to steal she put that up a Marula tree on Inyati’s access. Xikhavi leopardWe’ve been seeing Scotia a few times. Thlangisa has been taking advantage of the lambing season and her cubs don’t know what it feels like to be hungry. As such they are both growing really fast and have turned into little leopards.Day One leopard

At least one of the Othawa’s (lioness) is pregnant and is showing signs she might be ready to drop soon. This is good news because the two sub-adults have been seen with the Majingilanes with a survivable amount of hostility. The xhimungwe’s also seem to be enjoying the abundance of prey and when we see them they are snoozing away from the heat with full bellies.Ximhungwe pride

The herds of buffalo have been around as well as cheetah and the wild dog. The best thing about this time of year is the colours and the sounds as every insect, bird and plant is trying to take advantage of this time of plenty. It is also great to see the new shape the river is taking.600 buffalo herd

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.