After an early morning start to take some images of the sunrise we wandered east towards the Grumeti ranger’s camp in the Sabora plains.
“Living wild species are like a library of books still unread. Our heedless destruction of them is akin to burning the library without ever having read its books.”
~ John Dingell, Balancing on the Brink of Extinction: The Endangered Species Act and Lessons for the Future
We were watching a group of Topis cavorting around. A Topi is a subspecies of the Tsessebe. They are incredibly quick sprinters which are able to pronk and can do a high knee prance just like a Lipizzaner stallion. At the same time we were keeping an eye on two large female Hyaenas who were guarding their den out in the open at the top of a rise. All of sudden one of the female Spotted Hyaenas got up and started to run down the hill. Our ranger, Waziri, told us something was up and the next moment he shouted “Wild Dogs”.
Down in the shallow valley were a few Wild Dogs, not the whole pack. They had caught a Thompson’s Gazelle and were busy shredding it. When we got down there we found three Wild Dogs, two pups and an adult. The pups were sub-adults but looked strange as their skin was black and they had no hair. No one knew what caused the dogs to lose their hair but it must have been some form of mange.
The pups must have heard the Hyaenas coming. presumably the female racing down the hill had been “whooping” and calling for reinforcements. The first Hyaena arrived at the Wild Dogs just as we did.
The Hyaena came running in but the three Wild Dogs stood their ground, for a few seconds.
The Wild Dogs quickly realised that the Hyaena mob was descending on them.
“Competition has been shown to be useful
up to a certain point and no further,
but cooperation, which is the thing
we must strive for today,
begins where competition leaves off.”
~ Franklin D. Roosevelt
Within a few seconds, more Hyaenas arrived and the Wild Dogs gave way, being badly ‘outsized’ and outnumbered.
It was amazing to see all these Hyaenas appear out of nowhere. Presumably, the Hyaenas lay hidden in the tufts of red oat grass scattered all over the plain, waiting for the call to intercept.
There was no fighting between the Hyaenas over the carcass.
Two large females were the first to the carcass and the larger one quickly showed her dominance.
The largest female Hyaena, presumably the matriarch, grabbed the remains of the “Tommy” and ran back toward her den at the top of the hill. She must have had pups at the den.
Having scattered all directions when the Hyaenas had descended on them, the three Wild Dogs quickly reassembled and looked around assessing the lie of the land now that all the Hyaenas in the area had been “called to arms”.
It was surprising to see the three Wild Dogs on their own but they quickly regrouped with the main pack.
“The one process now going on that will take millions of years to correct is the loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats. This is the folly our descendants are least likely to forgive us.”
~ E. O. Wilson
Two Wild Dog packs had been reintroduced into this part of the Serengeti according to Waziri. One of the two alpha dogs had a tracking collar around its neck as presumably research was being done on the new immigrants.
The dogs were quite some distance from us and did not stand still for long. The loss of the meal was quickly forgotten and the pack was on the hunt again. Wild Dogs are nomadic and only den when they have pups which are too young to keep up with the pack.
There were 12 dogs in this pack, two of which were sub-adults. It looked like one or two of the adults were getting mange too. The Wild Dogs ears pricked up when they heard the Hyaenas again.
“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
This time the Wild Dogs turned the tables and gave the Hyaenas a “rev” and chased them away.
The Wild Dogs never stopped moving and it did not take long for them to move beyond the range of our lenses.
According to the UCIN Red List the African Wild Dog is classified as Endangered with its population declining. (http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/12436/0). There are around 6,600 African Wild Dogs left in the wild. They have been endangered for more than 20 years. The loss of living space is one of the main reasons why this species’ population is in decline, as a pack range can be 900 square kilometres, according to The Endangered Wildlife Society.
The African wild dog has a very different pack life compared to other pack or group predators, they have a very caring and social nature towards each other.Within the pack there is a breeding pair. This means that only one female and male will have pups, but every dog in the pack takes part in raising the young. Unlike other group predators wild dogs let their young feed first, they also rarely show aggression towards each other when feeding or hunting. The hunting dogs will also return to the den and regurgitate food for the pups and those who stayed behind to guard them. (regurgitate means to spit food back up after its been swallowed) Wild dogs are almost never aggressive towards each other, even the hierarchy (this is the order of importance and power within the pack) is decided in a completely non-violent way. Wild dogs are some of Africa’s most successful hunters, with a kill rate as high as 80%. This means they are even more successful than lions. They use different sounds and calls to communicate amongst each other before and during the hunt. Source: http://www.londolozi.com/cubsden/why-is-the-african-wild-dog-an-endangered-species/
“Every creature was designed to serve a purpose. Learn from animals for they are there to teach you the way of life. There is a wealth of knowledge that is openly accessible in nature. Our ancestors knew this and embraced the natural cures found in the bosoms of the earth. Their classroom was nature. They studied the lessons to be learned from animals. Much of human behavior can be explained by watching the wild beasts around us. They are constantly teaching us things about ourselves and the way of the universe, but most people are too blind to watch and listen.”
~ Suzy Kassem
Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its interconnectedness and let it be.