Motswari Blog Volume 32 – Painted dogs moving on

Denning season for the painted dogs has come to an end, the pups are now big enough and strong enough to travel with the pack. At the end of August one vehicle of guests was lucky enough to witness the extraordinary activity of a large pack of wild dogs finally moving out of the den and returning to their nomadic lifestyle.

In the morning we visited the then current den, where we witnessed some very strange behavior from the adults. There were no puppies in sight, yet some of the adults were there frantically digging. Whilst digging, they’d stop then look around and then dart off in the direction in which they were looking. Surmising what they were up to was a challenge. In total we followed the adults to three of their last 6 dens before handing over the sighting to another vehicle. They reported back and said the pack had carried on doing the same thing, going to other old den locations, proceeding to dig and then moving on. None of us were any the wiser–however, we did giggle and thought maybe they’d forgotten which den they’d left the puppies at.

In the afternoon, we were not looking for the painted dogs, they found us. We were actually on a completely different mission when we came across a small waterhole and there the pack of 9 adults and 15 puppies were on the move. What a sight this was!We decided to attribute the collective noun of “a pallet of painted dogs” because it was a feast of colour and movement seeing the pack as one,and for the first time mobile.The puppies looked like they were in heaven, full of energy and bounding around in the wealth of space they found themselves in. The adults were not hanging around, momentarily you’d see them shepherding the little ones and keeping them close together for this was a very dangerous time for the pack. With little protection for the pups if they came across lions or hyena on their journey, the adults had to be aware and careful in their choice of route.

Whilst following the pack through a fairly thick area they literally bumped into a small herd of zebra.Yet more giggles as all the pups seemed to stop like statues at the dazzling sight. It was almost like a game of musical statues and the music had just stopped. As the zebra approached,the puppies turned and ran towards our vehicle, clearly having no idea what this stripy beast was.Whilst some of the adults stood still and stared at the herd, clearly having a think about the validity of a hunt,they thought better of it, corralled the pups together once again and carried on. (Watch the video below to see the action!)

Although at times the terrain the dogs were moving across was a little tricky,we did get some incredible views of their activity. Their coordination and communication clear to see and the pack mentality so apparent in their movements. When we thought calm had returned suddenly some of the adults bolted off, at pace, towards an area we thought we heard impala barking. In an instant at least 5 adults had left the pack and gone off on their mission, the pups knowing that they’re not ready for the hunt, nowhere near ready to keep up with the pace and stamina levels achieved by the adults. The departing adults were far too quick for us to follow but it wasn’t long before they returned, unsuccessful, regrouped and then carried on into the distance. The time came where we had to handover to another team to follow and enjoy this magical sight. We had definitely had an incredible 10 minutes with them when so much seemed to have happened. The pack actually travelled a long way with their pups and left our traversing area, the first time they’d gone in three months. A sad moment, but the overriding feeling was one of total gratitude to have spent so much quality time with this incredible pack.

We were incredibly privileged to have them in our area for so long, through the denning season,allowing us to watch the pups grow into the little trouble-makers they are now. They will soon be as deadly and efficient as the adults in their pack and be known as Africa’s best killing machine. Thank you to this particular pallet of painted dogs–it has been a complete joy to spend time with you at this insightful and beautiful time, but please come back and see us again, very soon!


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