Hennie van Heerden's Wildlife Diary

November 30, 2010

The dogs are out!!

Filed under: 2010,November — Hennie van Heerden @ 5:35 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

When I woke up it seemed like a glorious dry and sunny day.  All night lions had been roaring all around camp, so I was brimming to go out and find them, certainly after yesterday. But the first thing we found was a rather disturbing discovery… A stray dog!! Now in many areas a stray dog is nothing to worry about and part of every day life, but in an African Game reserve, it’s something to raise high alarm. Not only is it a predatory threat to many animals but it may carry something much more dangerous; rabies! South Africa still suffers highly from this disease, thousands of people get infected and each year dozens of people still die from it; let alone the number of animals that suffer from it. A bite from this stray could have a devastating effect on the wildlife within the reserve.  Any responsible person just can’t take that risk!
This seemed to be a poacher’s dog (as I was told). His ears were clipped in a strange way.. I could have chosen not to mention it here, but it is part of every day life in a game reserve in South Africa and I think we, as guests, have to respect that.  Mala Mala does all it can to ban rabies from their territory and took part in a huge and costly vaccination program against rabies just last year and it has the right, no, even the duty, to protect all the animals (and people) on their premises as good as they can.
We stayed with the dog, which pretty much behaved like a proper Wild Dog, starting an endless seemingly effortless trot, stopping here and there to see if there was something to hunt, until the head ranger arrived…

Still, despite the fact that I totally understand and agree, we were a little shook-up when we went on our way.
But… as so often is the case.. pretty soon something happened to change our moods completely.

Wild Dogs!
The same hunting pack, consisting of 7 dogs were on the premises! Same as a week ago, all signs went on red… 🙂
We tried to get to the scene as quickly as possible and found the pack heading for the river. It is just impossible to describe the feeling of seeing those magnificent animals. Their energy, their social interaction, their playfulness, it is mindblowing to watch!

We followed the pack until we reached the river. The pack seemed quite anxious to cross; understandable as there are many dangers like crocs and hippos. And there seemed to be something in the water that kept them from crossing. They trotted up and down the bank but didn’t dare to get into the water.
At a certain moment, we had to make way for other vehicles according to Mala Mala’s strict 3 cars maximum policy. But Matt had a brainwave; you could almost see the flashing light bulb above his head :-). He quickly turned the car and we crossed the river a bit further on. We circled around until we were on the opposite bank of the river where the dogs were still trying to cross, facing us directly. What a wonderful sight!!  In the end, the dogs decided against crossing and moved on. But thanks to Matt, it sure was a memorable sighting!! Rangers like this make all the difference….

After breakfast, Matt suggested to go out again as we would have new guests arriving in the afternoon (and so the chance to stop at the ‘little things’ or spend time with a bird for instance, would be limited). Although it may sound a little weird, we had a great time watching a tiny little newborn Impala getting the hang of sanitary breaks, mimicking his mother in everything she did. When mam peed, the baby did too, nearly falling over on wobbly legs; when she poo’d, the baby did too, completely toppling over 🙂 Too cute and funny!
We found the old Styx pride lioness up north resting and spent some time with a beautiful male Waterbuck, having a quiet little siesta.
A herd of Elephants was slowly making its way through the bush. Every time I’m amazed how a herd of dozens of massive elephants can move in such a silent way..

Just after lunch the new guests arrived and everyone was just brimming with enthusiasm to go out, right after tea, hoping of course for another sighting of the dogs. But first there was another surprise in store!

Not long after we went out, we stumbled upon the Kikilezi Female and her daughter, both together. Mom had made a kill; a baby impala but they didn’t seem in a particular hurry to eat it. Not surprising given the number of kill she made over tha past few days. In stead the baby used it as practice material;

 “killing it’ over and over again. It was jumping up and down, snarling at it, growling, throwing it in the air and practicing different ways of the ‘killer-bite”. Everytime it had mastered a new tactics, it proudly showed it to mom, who was resting in the shade nearby, keeping an eye out for the many possible dangers around. What a sight!!!!

And as always, when a day is so full of the most beautiful sightings, it wan’t over yet. When the sun was about to go down, we received a call on the radio; The dogs were back!!! And apparently they had hunted succesfully because when we arrived, they were all lying around, covered in blood from top to toe and helping eachother with the cleaning of the fur. Hyenas were surrounding the pack, hoping for scraps, but were ferociously kept at bay by the pack of dogs. We stayed with the dogs for a while while it got dark. When we drove back to camp we were just talking about how incredible the day had been. It was at that moment that the lovely Tamboti Female Leopard topped off the day by her appearance.  On the move, hunting, it was impossible to get a decent shot of her, but I kind of like the motion blur in the shot below, when she was walking in front of us, with the headlights of the other car on the scene as backlight. What a day!!!!!

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