In May this year we had the good fortune of discovering the den site of the LTC wild dog pack. There were smiles all round in the Linyanti after the news broke of a confirmed 10-litter pack! We adhered to our strict viewing protocol and only began viewing the pups once they had begun to freely emerge from the den site.
And then, just a few days ago, we found the den abandoned.
There was not a dog in sight, only the tracks of lions and hyaenas and two dead pups left at the entrance. We knew that the pups were not yet old enough to leave the den and that they would require shelter and security in order to grow strong and join the pack on those high-speed chases… as only wild dog know how to do!
The whole litter had tragically been taken out… or at least that’s what we thought.
A day later two pups were spotted with the pack. Hooray! These young canines, although struggling to keep up with the pack, had miraculously survived… How? I guess we will never know.
I decided to make it my mission to keep a look out for the dogs, seriously hoping that they would survive.
A beautiful morning once again – sitting having breakfast around the campfire and listening to a distant lion roar as the sun began waking up. A vervet monkey sounded its alarm. It was time to begin our safari!
Only one vehicle was operating so I decided to head out in another vehicle. I was feeling lucky. I grabbed my camera and coffee ‘takeaway’ and headed out. I was ready to ‘Rock Linyanti,’ as we like to say.
Twenty minutes into the drive Bobby called on the radio – his voice sounding calm. “I have a visual of two matlhalerwa (wild dog), highly mobile, west of camp along the main road.” His voice then suddenly erupted into a higher pitch, I could hear excitement in his tone. “I have visual of five bananyana (pups) sleeping. Although I had clearly heard what he had said, I just couldn’t believe it. I asked him to repeat his message.
True as Bob, the pack had left the five pups and were now on a high-speed chase looking for prey to nourish their young. It was clear that they had not yet found a site to den. Leaving the den at such an early age poses a lot of risks for the young pups. Predator rivalry in the Linyanti is brutal!
The pack took down a warthog and just as they began devouring it, a hungry lioness came in and stole away the remains. The dogs ran back to the pups and regurgitated what little they had salvaged. At this point a hyaena approached and tried to steal the food from the pups. The dogs were not having any of it and the hyaena made a hasty retreat with its tail between its legs.
The pups of the LTC pack have survived another morning in the wilderness. Having left the den at such a young age, the pups have no choice but to learn fast and subsequently become efficient and successful marauders.
Talk about being thrown in at the deep end! Without the safety of a den, these pups have had no choice but to run with the pack. Their survival will no doubt make them a force to be reckoned with.
Written and Photographed by Neuman Vaso, King's Pool General Manager
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