Luck was on our side this year when one of the wild dog packs that run through Lion Sands chose to den on our Kruger Park concession. Visiting a wild dog den is something that few safari goers will ever get to do. The viewing of the highly endangered wild dog is already incredibly rare in most areas. To see young pups at a den site is nothing short of spectacular!
The wild dog den has been opened to viewing only for a few weeks. During these early stages, it is critical that our field guides exercise absolute sensitivity when taking guests to this area. Extra rules have been put in place regarding viewing times, number of vehicles, and time spent at the site. These practices ensure the animals’ welfare, and allow over time for us to get close to them and witness something that most people will never have the privilege of seeing.
The pups at this den site were born less than two months ago. In only a few shorts weeks, the animals have already become accustomed to the sound and presence of the vehicles. They show only curiosity, or no interest at all, in our presence, following the relaxed behaviour of the adults.
We first discovered the den on 19 August. Out with Field Guide Willie Pienaar, we came across two adult male wild dogs standing guard by an enormous termite mound, giving away the den’s location. It was late afternoon and the other adults were leaving on a hunting expedition. Often, it is the mother who stays behind, but the role of ‘babysitter’ can be shared amongst the pack.
Willie made his approach slowly and cautiously. We heard a chorus of high-pitched squeals coming from inside the mound. Curious about the sound of the vehicle, the pups emerged. Six of them in total! They stayed close to the adults at first but then, over time they became more comfortable and began running around and exploring. An incredible sight!
Like other animals, wild dogs, especially young ones, face challenges – especially by predators, like lions and hyenas – to survive into adulthood. We are rooting for their survival and look forward to sharing updates on the pack over the coming months.
Words and media by: Charlotte Arthun
Post courtesy of Lion Sands
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