2013 is definitely a very special year for me as a wildlife enthusiast & amateur nature photographer. I managed to sight an animal I have long yearned to see!
The wild dog has several names: the African wild dog, African hunting dog, Cape hunting dog, painted dog, painted wolf, painted hunting dog, spotted dog, or ornate wolf. Its scientific name “Lycaon pictus” is derived from the Greek word for “wolf” and the Latin for “painted”. It is the only canid species to lack dewclaws on the forelimbs. This is the largest African canid and, besides only the gray wolf, is the world’s second largest extant wild canid.
Whilst they den, they tend to hunt within the area and as the pups get stronger they are able to move with the nomadic adults after a period of between 7-10 weeks. Pups are usually born in dens dug and abandoned by other animals, such as the Aardvark. Weaning takes place at about 10 weeks. After 3 months, the pups leave the den and begin to run with the pack. At the age of 8-11 months they can kill small prey, but depend on the pack kills for most of their food. They do not become proficient hunters until the age of 12-14 months. Wild dogs reach sexual maturity at the age of 12-18 months.
I had heard rumors that a pack of Wild Dogs had denned at the Ol Pejeta Wildlife Conservancy in late 2012. On our first visit there we missed the dogs by minutes as they rushed into thickets of the track in the late evening. Back in the area at first light we were disappointed again as these animals are constantly on the move unless they are denning.
I have always wanted to see these majestic & highly endangered predators for years now. All my sightings have been very brief but very special nonetheless. Then like magic in late Dec 2012 on a quick day visit to the conservancy I bump into them at the den with 3 pups! WOW! At first I was unable to even take pictures and my hands were trembling with excitement like a child in a candy store! The pack had 8 Adult Dogs and 3 pups; it was an absolute pleasure to have all 11 Wild Dogs within plain sight. I had a grin from ear to ear!
3 good hours were spent with these super canids and soon it was time to say good bye! I think I was happier to see them than to photograph them. Sometimes it’s nice to put the camera away to just absorb the behavior of these enigmatic creatures.
Having said this, it is important to note that Wild Dogs are a highly endangered species, with approximately 6,000 to 7,000 left on the African continent. This is all due to habitat loss that leaves them little room to roam in their African home, human persecution, poisoning, disease (especially rabies), snares, loss of prey & competition with larger carnivores.
Long may they live and hope our future generations can enjoy sightings like this for millennia.
Enjoy the images!