As the dogs steadily picked up speed it became harder and harder to follow them through the trees. We lost sight of them, and instead drove far ahead on a road that we hoped might bring us back into contact with them. It was a gloomy afternoon, and the sun had already set behind far-off clouds.After half an hour of fruitless searching we were about to give up when a lone hooded vulture flew down onto a broken tree stump ahead of us. We drove towards the bird, off the road, and found a single wild dog standing over an impala it had just killed, only moments before our arrival.
African Wild Dog, One For All
We were following a pack of wild dogs to the north of Savuti camp on a late October afternoon. We know this pack as the Zib pack, their name coming from a local name for a nearby lagoon. The dogs had all twelve of their puppies with them, and were moving steadily through some woodland.
The dog had eaten a little of the impala, but as is characteristic of wild dogs, was now waiting for the rest of the pack to catch up. Whilst it would be easy for the dogs to vocalize and call in their pack mates at times like this, that behaviour can also catch the attention of unwanted competitors like spotted hyaena and lion. On this occasion the dog remained silent, and she looked this way and that, ears straining. The dog came to a decision and ran off quietly, in search of her pack.
We decided to wait alongside the dead impala. The woodland was eerily silent. Sitting, waiting for the dogs to return, the tension was tangible. The light continued to fade. We were just beginning to wonder how long it would take the dogs to find each other when the adult dogs suddenly campe bounding in, and without a second’s hesitation, began eating as fast as they could. Another, then another arrived, each dog moving in alongside the next, and gulping down the meat.
Perhaps three minutes passed by in this way before the cluster of very excited puppies showed up.
In total silence, and with no visible signal, the adult dogs just melted away from the remains of the kill, to take up guarding positions all around.
This moment was perhaps the highlight of the whole sighting for me. I found it fascinating to see how readily the adults gave way to the puppies and it was a clear example of the wild dog’s unusual social code, where youngsters enjoy precedence over adults in many instances.
Although the big dogs had finished the bulk of the meat on the impala carcass, there was still enough left to keep the puppies happily occupied. Each puppy took its place alongside the next, and tails held high with excitement, they chewed away at their meal.
Wild dogs will regurgitate food for their own hungry pack members throughout the course of a day, so no dogs go without, even if they do arrive late at a kill.