It was during our morning drive that we came across fresh tracks of the wild dogs in the Nhoro area, on the northern side of the reserve. The tracks told us they were moving in a southerly direction, and with the sun already heating during this time of the day we knew that it would not be long before they would take a rest in an area that has some water and shade. The tracks kept on heading south and we thought that with plenty of water at Sosiji Dam this could be the area they were heading. But, to our surprise, there was no sign of them there.
Having done a thorough look around the dam we went on, and later saw tracks heading in an easterly direction towards the Manyuchi area. We knew that the pan there would be our best bet to check for them, and as we arrived we were rewarded with the whole pack of 17 wild dogs all scattered around the pan. Some were lying down in the shade of the mopani trees whilst some were at the water’s edge in the mud. It’s interesting to see how the pups lie in one group, and the adults lie in another.
During this time of the year with temperatures being very high, this species tends to be most active at first light as they hunt when it’s still cool. They get exhausted quickly in the sun, so as it heats up they take advantage of the shade and the different watering holes. In so doing they conserve energy for another hunt in the late afternoon when the temperatures drop.
It was such a great sighting to see them coating their bellies and paws in the mud – in so doing I think they get rid of annoying ectoparasites as the ticks will drop off together with the mud when it dries.
We left them at the same site for their midday nap as we headed back to the lodge for brunch.
It is always a pleasure to visit Hwata hide, especially during the late afternoon as a number of wildlife species trickle in for a drink. On this very day we were fortunate enough to be rewarded as we had sat in the hide for close to an hour without any signs of wildlife coming in, due to the availability of water at the natural pans; but then we saw a dominant elephant bull arrive.
This was without a shadow of a doubt, one of my best wildlife experiences ever, and I’m going to share it with you from my own perspective, as I was all alone. I’d headed out to my favourite refuge on the reserve, Lojaan Dam. It’s a dam at the foot of a sandstone outcrop, and it holds an enchantment all its own. There’s a dam wall and the water in front of it had receded leaving a patchwork of dry cracked mud. I parked the vehicle behind a rocky area, took my heavy fixed 400 mm lens and camera, and a weighty sandbag, and climbed over the rocks and on to the dam wall.
It was the usual morning routine of not knowing what we are going to see out there, but the moment you board those beautiful open vehicles your heart is full of joy in knowing that you are going to meet Mother Nature at close quarters. After an early morning cup of Zimbabwe’s finest coffee your eyes are wide open and looking through thick bushes for any movements, especially those of the illusive spotted cats. We went through Banyini open plains and there was lots of plains game, a crash of white rhinos and plentiful birdlife.
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!