What a treat!! African wild dogs have not been seen in the Lamai area for over three years so the whole team was thrilled when this small pack decided to pay us a visit.
The African wild dog (also known as the African painted dog or the Cape hunting dog (Lycon pictus – painted wolf) is a rare and endangered canid with population numbers estimated globally at just 6600 individuals. Main threats to the species include habitat loss and fragmentation, human conflict and disease – which are sadly the usual suspects.
Although this was a relatively small pack, pack totals can be as many as 50 dogs and are led by an alpha male and female pair. Male and female sub-hierarchies are prevalent within the pack, however only the alpha dogs will breed and can produce up to 19 pups in a litter – yowzer! Pups are raised by the entire pack and should another female fall pregnant and have a litter her pups are inevitably killed by the alpha female.
African wild dogs are medium sized (weighing up to 30kgs) intelligent and extremely social, having a number of recognised vocalisations and communication techniques; characteristics which partly explain why they are such effective hunters. Kill rates are at 80%, which is very high for a predator.
If you have been fortunate enough to visit the African wild you are most probably familiar with the saying, ‘whatever you do, do not run’… if you happen to find yourself face to face with a dangerous animal, if you run, you automatically become the next potential meal. The saying is particularly relevant to wild dogs as they can run at speeds up to 70km/h; they also have great stamina and will maintain a good pace for up to 5km, a trait which is useful when hunting as they literally run their prey into the ground. Wild dogs also have quite a ferocious reputation as they generally kill their prey by biting chunks of flesh out of it until it falls to the ground, followed by disembowelment. Eating is a fast and furious event, however quite civilised (everything considered) – no bickering amongst dogs, a pecking order is apparent with juveniles generally eating first. All necessary as prey is often stolen by lions and hyenas.
Nomad Lamai is literally a melting pot of all things wild, game viewing is fantastic at all times of the year and I am happy to add the African Wild dog to the already long list - let's hope they hang around for a while.