A few weeks ago when we went to the Crocodile pack den we saw lion tracks there. We checked the cameras and sure enough, we saw that a pair of lions had been to visit. First though, there were a bunch of great pictures of the pups, playing and lazing around the entrance to their den:
Photos from the infra-red camera trap them showed what I always dread seeing…. lions – and right at the entrance to the den:
Fortunately however, a few hours later, pictures from the same camera showed all nine pups alive and well. Whew! Here they are being suckled by mom.
The following week they were all still at the den, none the worse for wear from the lions visit
As you know, we try to always have camera traps at the wild dog dens in order to monitor what is going on from the time they first den down, to when they leave the den. Usually, we get great information on which dogs are at the den, how many pups are in the litter when they first emerge, when they move or leave the dens and what else visits the den.
When the cameras were last checked at the Batanai Pack den however, we had a surprise – and not a good one – waiting for us. We started to flick through the hundreds on photos on the card, and suddenly came across this:
Followed by this:
The first picture shows a python going into the den where the pups are, watched by a curious (and not very proactive!) wild dog… The second shows the python coming out of the den half an hour later (watched by the same, still somewhat non proactive wild dog), with a rather suspicious looking bulge near the front.
Unfortunately, the pups had not emerged prior to this incident, so we do not know how many were in the litter to start with. The dogs left the den the following day, and we have yet to find them again, so we don’t know whether they are still denning (which would mean they still have at least some pups surviving) or whether they have abandoned denning altogether, which would mean the whole litter was killed.
As soon as we find them and get an update, I’ll let you know. It’s certainly not the first time that pythons have killed wild dog pups in the dens but its the first time we’ve caught one in the act!