Tag Archives: wild dog mortality

Lions vs Wild Dogs

Hi Folks,

I’m just back from another 3 week field stint in Gonarezhou which I will write about soon.  But I just wanted to post some of these photos of lions that were seen at the Mapura den on Chishakwe Ranch in Save Valley Conservancy a few weeks ago.  It was a pride of 7 lions, who visited the den a couple of times.  Here are some of the curious youngsters investigating the den hole where the pups sleep.

Fortunately all the pups survived, but one of the pack’s adult males (probably the alpha male) was unfortunately killed. He was found a couple of hundred meters from the den.

Nonetheless the pack seems to be holding together okay.  They have two litters of pups but are no longer den bound, so I’m not sure how the little ones will do.  Just hope they don’t meet these lions again any time soon!

Back soon,



Wild dogs killed by lions and snares

Hi folks,

This is a bit of a depressing and slightly gory post, but I think it’s important to show all side of the story in our efforts to conserve the wild dogs out here in Zimbabwe.  Although we’ve had lots of puppies born and lots of good news to report, unfortunately we’ve also had quite a few dogs killed recently – and mostly by lions.

In the last couple of weeks, we’ve found 4 wild dog carcasses, three of which were killed by lions.  The fourth carcass was too old for cause of death to be ceratin, but damage to the skull suggests possibly a lion attack as well.  Two of the definite lion kills were of known dogs from the Mapura pack; an old male called Nyaminyami and a yearling female known as Tramp.  Fortunately (if we are to try and find a silver lining in this), the attack happened away from the den, when the dogs were out hunting, so their pups were not harmed and their den not disturbed.

Nyaminyami - killed by lions1

Tramp - killed by lions

The other dog definitely killed by lions was an adult male from the Mapari pack (we suspect) but we were not able to identify him.  The post mortem showed that he had had his spine broken by the lions.

Dead dog showing puncture marks

The other carcass was too old to be identified, or for cause of death to be reliably established, but we believe it was a member of the Nyarushanga Pack which had been denning not far from where it was found.  We have yet to see that pack well enough to see which, if any, dogs are missing.

At the same time all this was happening in Save Valley Conservancy, we also found our collared wild dog in Gonarezhou dead, having been caught in a snare.  I’ll report on that in a separate post, as she was showing some extremely interesting movement behavior before she was killed.

So all in all a depressing couple of weeks, but just serves to highlight how important it is try to mitigate human threats, so that the combined impact of that and these natural deaths is less severe.

Back soon with better news I hope,


African wild dog kills himself in bizarre accident

(This post contains some quite gory photos… As American TV likes to say: “Viewer discretion is advised”!)

Anyone who has been following this blog for long will have realized that one of the major threats to the survival of wild dogs is human-related, namely when the dogs get caught in snares set by poachers (see the last post). Almost 80% of recorded adult mortality in our population is due to snaring.

Nonetheless, wild dogs do occasionally die from natural causes as well, i.e predation of pups by lions, fatal injuries sustained while hunting, contraction of certain diseases and infrequent natural accidents. Here is one such example of the latter – an incredibly sad and unusual thing to witness.

On Saturday evening, Rueben found the Star Pack and confirmed all individuals were there. On Sunday morning, when he re-located the pack in order to show some safari clients, he found one of the adult male dogs, dead from impaling himself on a sharp stick…

African wild dog impaled on a sharp stump

African wild dog impaled on a sharp stump

The stump, which entered the dogs body about 30cm

The stump, which entered the dogs body about 30cm

All the other dogs were still around, being reluctant to leave their pack mate, but soon dispersed when we got there. From an investigation of the tracks, it seemed that the dogs had been chasing something at high speed and come over a small rise. The dog would have met the stump face on, without time to stop and it simply went straight through him. Horrific though it is, the dog would almost certainly have died instantly, due to penetration of the stick into his heart and lungs – a kinder death in many ways than that from suffocation in snares.

African wild dog in bizarre natural accident

African wild dog in bizarre natural accident

Fortunately, wild dog experts throughout Africa have confirmed that this is an extremely unusual thing to witness, so luckily it seems that it doesn’t happen all that often.

We removed the carcass, and took samples for genetic analysis as well as the skull for exact age determination. Fortunately the dog was not the alpha male of the pack: March/April is mating time for the dogs, and a death of an alpha at this stage would potentially be disastrous for the pack’s breeding this year.

Back soon – hopefully with something more positive (and less gruesome) to report!