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.
Jenny was first on the scene and managed to see two wild dogs calling and running around. Once I arrive the dogs had momentarily disappeared west. I decided to move east along the boundary fence to look for tracks and see what was going on, on that side. I discovered, on the Gonarezhou National Park side of the fence, a third wild dog and it became very apparent to us that this satellite group of dogs had split up and become separated. There were now four on our side of the fence and at least one outside in the park, and this was the reason for the frantic location calls!
Further along this high fenceline, in an easterly direction, is a section of fence spanning about 8 km long that is only 1,2 m high. The reason for this is to allow free movement of elephants between our reserve and the park. It’s low enough for the elephants to simply step over it. It also allows movement of other animals such as kudu, eland and impala, to mention a few. These animals simply jump over the low fence.
Back to the story… So, travelling up the fence we located tracks from the dogs earlier and came across a part in the fence where it had been compromised by animals such as warthogs that are known for digging open burrows under fences to keep from getting zapped by the electric strands. These hollows are used by other animals such as porcupines, lions, leopards, cheetahs, bushpigs and, of course, wild dogs. The dogs we were following had indeed entered through this open burrow. It was interesting because taking a closer look at the fence we discovered there had been movement of lions through the fence since we found long dark mane hairs caught on the bottom wires.
After about half an hour of watching and following the dogs, they started moving along the fenceline in an easterly direction, with Jenny in close pursuit. I waited about 30 m past the hollow under the fence at the entry point. What was great about this is that Jenny kept a close enough distance from the dogs not to frighten them but just to keep a little pressure on them moving in the right direction towards the part of the fence they had entered by, while I secured the far side as a buffer. Eventually the dogs recognised their entry point and raced under the fence into the park where we heard them joyfully reacquainting with the rest of their pack.
Wild dogs are nomadic and can traverse 50 km in a single day. As a result, their territories can range between 400 and 1 500 square kilometres which often extends beyond the boundaries of wildlife reserves.
A call crackled over the radio that the tracking team had found the River Pride on a buffalo kill near Hwata Pan. “Bonanza!” I thought. Not only because this would provide good photo opportunities of lions feeding in relatively open area, and the clean-up crew of hyenas and vultures that would make no bones of the carcass over the next few days, but mainly because Hwata Pan is where we have our sunken photo hide, and the lions would have to go and drink there at some stage during the feeding frenzy. I’ve waited for 10 years to get a shot of a predator drinking at eye level to me from this hide – could this be the chance at last?
The Malilangwe Dam is an amazing fishing destination. The most sought out species are tigerfish and tilapia.The best times of the year for fishing is when the water is warm – a good reminder is good fishing months all have an “r” in them from September to April. That said, we have still been enjoying some great fishing now in May – all the photos in this story are from early May.
It is most satisfying watching elephants enjoying a mud bath! It starts off with the approaching walk, an elephant has when making his/her way to the water source. To describe it, I would have to say it’s an excited, exaggerated, fast walk while bobbing their heads up and down and to the sides at the same time. We call it ‘the water walk’. Even for the novice person you can pick up the excitement of the elephant looking forward to a thirst-quenching cool drink, usually followed by refreshing mud bath.
I was camped out again, on my favourite dam wall that offers a good vantage point and a relatively safe refuge from the vehicle. I was trying to tell myself that really it was an afternoon of birding – just sitting quietly with binos and a bird book and trying to ID whatever came along, and enjoying the isolation and peace. But really what I wanted and hoped and wished for was a solitary black rhino.