Tag Archives: puppies

African wild dogs show off their wonderful playful nature

Hi folks,

I just wanted to share with you a few photos I took recently whilst watching the Batanai Pack in the Save Valley Conservancy.  The Batanai Pack is still 30 dogs, having had 12 pups last year and 100% pup survival to date!

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The 12 pups are now about 9 months old and are wonderfully charismatic little fellows; bold and beautiful.  And full of energy!!!

They found me very interesting:

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And then once they had tired of checking me out, they did what wild dog pups do…. played!!

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Just a wonderful, wonderful sight to watch.  I was smiling for the rest of the day!  It’s always great to get a chance to get out of the office and spend time with the dogs. and sightings like this remind us just why we are working so hard to conserve this magnificent species.

How can anyone seriously still consider these vermin?

Rosemary

A lovely evening with a beautiful pack of African wild dogs

Hi folks,

I was lucky enough to have a chance to spend time with a pack of 21 African wild dogs the other day.  The Mapura pack is one of my favourite packs; they are all such beautiful dogs individually, and when they are all together it’s really a stunning sight.

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We caught them the other day in that lovely African evening light and I just wanted to post a few photos to illustrate (just in case you were in any doubt!) the beauty of these endangered animals.

When we first caught up with the pack they were back-lit, with the light catching the grass:

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Then we moved around them and had about 15 minutes of the lovely light:

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As the sun started to go down, the dogs got a bit more active:

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It was nice to see our collared female (Forax) looking so good.  She was the mother of the beta litter of pups in this pack, all eight of whom have survived to six months   Good job! Here she is with one of her pups.

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And here are two male pups which are also from Forax’s litter – such striking markings on them both!

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Eventually we left the pack to it and headed home.  What a lovely evening!  And a great reminder of why we are working so hard to conserve these animals for all future generations.

Rosemary

 

The wild dog denning season approaches!!

Hi folks,

The start of the wild dog denning season is near!  We have at least two wild dog packs that are heavily pregnant!  We recently located the un-collared Nyarushanga Pack and saw that the alpha female is looking pretty pregnant!  She should be denning down any time now in the pack’s range in the middle of the Save Valley Conservancy!

Alpha female LHS

The other pack is one that lives in a wildlife area further west, called Nuanetsi.  It’s a pack of eight and this photo of the VERY pregnant alpha female was sent to me by the manager of the property.  It was taken on the 17th March, so by now I expect the pups will have been born.  It’s pretty early still for the dogs to be denning, but not unheard of.  Exciting times…!!

Pack of 8 - Pregnant female - 17-03-11

Back soon,

Rosemary

First look at Star pack pups

Hi guys,

Despite choosing to den right at the top of a hill, the Star pack have not escaped from our research! A couple of days ago I made the long and gruelling trip up to visit the den and managed to spot the dogs briefly as they ran down the other side. The pups are still quite small so are spending most of the time deep in the den, but the camera traps show at least ten pups.

First sighting of ten pups

First sighting of ten pups

Next time I plan to approach the den from a different angle and will hopefully stay unnoticed!

Becky

Harriet steals Cindy’s den!

Hi all,

Something very interesting has been happening in the Maera pack.

The alpha female (Harriet)’s den has been a perfect location for spending a few hours watching her nine pups and the interactions between them. We had also managed to identify every adult in the pack except for the other female, Cindy (Harriet’s sister).  Luckily though, she is collared and we were getting a clear signal not too far away. With a bit of investigating we managed to find her about 300 metres away, and it seemed she too had started denning!! It is not unheard of for two females in a pack to produce pups, but it’s likely the alpha female will intervene, either killing the beta female’s pups or raising them as her own. Normally a beta female will give birth around six weeks after the alpha has (so around now!). We put a camera trap up at her den hoping to identify when she gives birth.

Cindy in her den

Cindy in her den

Two days ago I went to check up on the beta female, Cindy. Unfortunately she wasn’t by her den, but I managed to retrieve the photos from the camera trap. Surprisingly the photos show the various stages of Harriet, the alpha female, moving her litter of nine pups to Cindy’s den! Often the alpha female will move her pups to another den site when the pups get too big, or bacteria builds up at the den. It seems Harriet took the easy option and simply took over Cindy’s den!!

Harriet clearing out Cindy's den

Harriet clearing out Cindy's den

Harriet carrying a pup to Cindy's den

Harriet carrying a pup to Cindy's den

Harriet with six of her pups at Cindy's den

Harriet with six of her pups at Cindy's den

I’ve since been back to Cindy’s den (Harriet’s now!!) and counted nine pups, so they have all been moved safely. I also managed to get a closer look at Cindy and am pretty certain she is still pregnant, so it’ll be interesting to see where she decides to give birth, and what happens to her pups. I’ll keep you posted!

Becky

Lions at the Bedford pack den again… only 3 pups left

Hi guys,

It may be no surprise to tell you that the Bedford pack have moved dens again!!  This is their fourth den this year. The huge increase in the lion population seems to have really taken its toll on this pack. We hadn’t had much luck seeing either the adults or the pups at their third den, and unfortunately when we went last time it felt abandoned. When looking at the photos from the camera traps it was clear that they were visited by lions again. Tracks on the ground also confirmed this. Sadly, one of the photos clearly shows a lion with a pup in its mouth.

Lion tracks going into den hole

Lion tracks going into den hole

Lion tracks going into den hole

Lion tracks going into den hole

Lion tracks amongst wild dog tracks

Lion tracks amongst wild dog tracks

Lion with pup in its mouth

Lion with pup in its mouth

Fortunately though, they didn’t move far and since finding their fourth den and putting up camera traps, I can confirm that there are still three healthy pups left. This is a big loss for the pack as they originally had thirteen pups, but fingers crossed these three remaining will make it into adulthood. They are spending a lot of time outside the den, and are extremely energetic and lively!

Three remaining Bedford pups

Three remaining Bedford pups

We also managed to collar one of this pack (the previous collared dogs split to form a new group), and this should make it easier to track the dogs should they move dens again or stop denning altogether.

Fitting Twinspot with a GPS collar

Fitting Twinspot with a GPS collar

The other packs seem to have escaped the lions so far (touch wood!), this pack has just been extremely unfortunate.

Becky

Bedford pack splits again!!!

Hi guys,

Well I’ve been here just over a week, and already there’s been lots to do! We’ve visited two den sites and have been following the progress of two more groups of dogs.

When searching for the collared dogs within the Bedford pack we realised that the pack had split. It appears that both collared dogs and three of their siblings have travelled south and joined with a group of four unknown dogs. We managed to put a collar on one of the unknown dogs, so with three collars in total we should find it relatively easy to keep track of them. We can’t be sure, but we believe that the dogs from the Bedford pack are female, and the four unknown dogs are male, so hopefully they will have created another breeding pack. We’ll be keeping a close eye on them…

Unknown male (Dumbo), who has joined with some Bedford siblings, being given a GPS collar.

Unknown male (Dumbo), who has joined with some Bedford siblings, being given a GPS collar.

As Rosemary mentioned in a previous blog, the Bedford breeding pack have moved dens, and we have been monitoring them to try and count the puppies. Before they moved we counted thirteen puppies, but unfortunately since then we have only managed to count five. It could be that they were taken by the lions which were seen at their previous den, but it is likely that we don’t ever find out. The five remaining puppies, however, look healthy and full of energy!

Twinspot babysitting the Bedford puppies

Twinspot babysitting the Bedford puppies

No more news yet on the new female within the Bedford Bachelors, but we’ll be sure to update you if anything changes!

Becky

Pup names

Hi folks,

Thanks very much for all your great suggestions for names.  I listed all the names suggested and then looked at the photos of all the pups to see if any names jumped out as particularly suitable.  And indeed they did!  I’ve gone for Dudu, Loopy, Biscuit and Milo for the four that I posted photos of in the last blog.  For the others I’ve gone for Twinspot (like Spotty but he has a very distinctive double spot pattern on his back right leg), Roxy, Simba (a very plain, lion coloured one), Trinity (3 distinct white marks on back right thigh), Macbeth and Mishmash (the only one with a full array of splodges of all colours!).

I’ve got about 20 more to name still, so I’m sure I’ll use some of the other names too.  I’ll let you know.  Thanks again for all your input – it’s great to have such a varied lot of names.

Rosemary

Wild Dogs at a Kill

Hi Folks,

Today we were blessed with an especially good sighting of the Bedford Pack—about the best view of them we’re likely to get when it’s not the denning season.

We were driving back through the Savé Valley Conservancy after a reconnaissance trip to the Gonarezhou National Park when Rueben, one of our scouts, banged on the roof of our pickup to get us to stop. Although we’d been travelling at some 60 or 70 kph, he had spotted Wild Dog tracks on the dirt road as we whizzed along. He’d also spotted some vultures circling not far from the road and after calculating the number of dogs and pups present from the tracks he could see, we grabbed our cameras and GPS units and followed him into the forest to find out what the vultures had spotted.

A few minutes walk into the trees, we found the fresh remains of a mature impala ram that the Wild Dogs had already almost totally devoured. Their tracks were all around it and although it had been killed very recently, every vertebra had been cleaned of meat already and the only thing intact was the head (although the vultures had pecked out its eyes). We took photos and GPS readings and attempted to locate a collared member of the Bedford Pack, Spanners, as we strongly suspected it was this pack who had made the kill. However, we could not find any signal using the antenna. Rosemary tried standing on some rocks to gain elevation in hope of picking up the signal, but without any luck.

Instead, we followed the tracks on the ground which led us towards the Makore River, but then we lost the trail and there seemed to be Wild Dog tracks going in every direction. What’s more, we couldn’t pick up any signal from the collar no matter how hard we tried. Perhaps the dogs had already moved far from the morning’s kill.

So Rueben and I climbed the Mkondo Hills nearby to search again for a radio-collar signal. None on the first hill—none on the second—but at the top of the third and highest hill, we suddenly picked up the ‘blip…blip’ from Spanners’ collar. Rueben estimated that the Bedford Pack was 5-8 km away and from the direction, that they were likely to be in dry bed of the Makore River after all, despite our failure to locate them there earlier.

So we drove bumpetty-bump down the rough dirt roads back to the Makore River and this time, a little way downstream, Rueben picked up the signal clearly from his perch on the back of the pick-up. Then we spotted them in the river-bed, again accompanied by a circling column of vultures. They were obviously well-aware and wary of the vehicle, but it causes them much less disturbance than a human on foot, and we were able to approach close enough to see that they were feeding on another kill, and to identify individuals and get some good photos.

Two African wild dogs on a kill

As they moved off down the river-bed, we followed them (sometimes getting a bit stuck in the sand when the 4-wheel-drive didn’t perform well) and after a short distance we found the whole Bedford pack either playing in the river-bed, lying in holes they had dug in the sand to cool off (the holes fill with water from below the dry river bed), or feeding excitedly on a THIRD kill of the day—this time a young warthog. The feeding Wild Dogs were wagging their white tails and often tugging on different bits of the carcass, like a tug of war, until it broke into more manageable chunks which they could carry off and enjoy.

 African wild dog with meat from a newly killed warthog 

After we got a good enough view to count them properly and see that the entire pack was still alive and apparently healthy, we left them to continue their way down stream and we went back to identify the second carcass, which we found surrounded by vulture footprints. It was a yearling impala ram with not a shred of meat left on it. Clearly, a pack of 29 dogs with 19 growing pups like the Bedford Pack can’t afford to waste any food. It didn’t appear that the vultures were going to get many left-overs, either!

African wild dogs in Zimbabwe - the Bedford Pack

This was my first decent sighting of African Wild Dogs in the wild, and I was struck by their close social organization—moving very much as a united and cooperative pack—and the rather artistic beauty of each Wild Dog’s unique fur colours. Although it seems unlikely outside the denning season, I really hope to be able to report some more sightings as successful as this one, and to show you some more pictures of these rare creatures.

More soon,

Roy

Wild Dogs on the Move

Hi folks,

As you know, the wild dogs have now finished denning and have resumed their nomadic lifestyle, moving vast distances all over the conservancy.  Much of our time is spent climbing up and down hills radio tracking to try to locate our collared dogs and then trying to get a look at them – easier said than done in some of the vegetation and terrain around here!

Anyhow, we recently managed to get close enough to our Bedford pack to take some pictures – the first we’ve got since they left the den. 

 The Bedford Pack on Mokore Ranch – 9 adults and 19 pups

The Bedford Pack

 It’s a pretty big pack now that the pups are up and running with the adults… It was 32 dogs initially, but is now down to 28.  One pup disappeared before they left the den, and 3 adults are missing as well now.  We hope that they have simply split off from the pack, rather than anything worse, but we have failed to pick up any sign of them.  Racoon (the young collared female) is one of the missing three, so hopefully her collar will lead us to them and help shed some light on what has happened to them.

The other packs are proving equally difficult to get close to or to see well, but as of last count, every dog was present and correct.

Back soon,

Rosemary