Painted wolves (Lycaon pictus), also known as African wild dogs, rely mainly on their sight to hunt, therefore they need a certain amount of light. They prefer hunting at dusk and at dawn, as midday temperatures are often too high. Very often, as seen here, the pack will find a cool spot not far from water, and spend the heat of the day resting nearby. All that time spent close to water increases encounters with other animals, and in this case there was a stand-off with the two cranky old buffalo bulls not letting the thirsty predator close to the water! Being small predators, painted wolves do not confront big dangerous game.
Their behaviour is highly specialized to living in packs, the main reason for which is to maximize successful hunts. All members of a pack are very social, and often they will be seen playing. These games are very important to maintain strong pack bonds.
I was most fortunate to have spent a couple of years following these beautiful creatures, as I was one of the guides that took the BBC Natural History film crew out in Mana Pools, Zimbabwe, to film the Dynasties series. The result is their Painted Wolf documentary that is currently being broadcast.
I hope you’ve already eaten.
While watching a pack of African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) sleeping near a waterhole in the drizzling rain I noticed a few hooded vultures (Necrosyrtes monachus) skulking about on the ground. Every now and again they would peck at something and eat it, and I wondered what it was since vultures are scavengers, feeding mostly from carcasses of dead animals. You often see them cleaning up the scraps of meat from a kill made by wild dogs. The dogs hadn’t made a kill nearby, and so it was that my binos and big lens revealed they were eating the wild dogs’ faeces!
It is not uncommon to sit in Hwata blind and see dagga boys come to the pan and drink. Dagga boys are the old grumpy buffalo bulls who have left the ‘buzz’ of the breeding herd and often join bachelor herds of other old bulls. The name dagga boys refers to their habit of wallowing in the mud (dagga), mostly as a means of thermoregulation. These old guys are very confident in their grumpiness and often end up walking into the middle of the pan on a hot dry day.
It ended up being a remarkably fortuitous morning as we had started our drive early to look for black rhinos. I drove to all areas with the habitats that black rhinos prefer – areas with shrubs and trees and dense thickets, but with no joy.
Early one morning Jenny and I were out scouting in different vehicles to help the guests’ game drives locate key specific animals, like lions, leopards, cheetahs, black rhinos and wild dogs. At about 7 am we received a sighting update from Bravo 2, which is the main southern boundary gate that links us to Gonarezhou National Park, informing us that they had seen wild dogs frantically location calling and running backwards and forwards along the boundary area.