Going hunting

Pamushana | January 2020

We found the Malilangwe pack of wild dogs resting in the crook of a riverbed, whiling away their afternoon. You could see how restless the pups were as they couldn’t resist milling about, hassling one another and even gnawing a bitter bit of old bark to keep boredom at bay.

Eventually the adults woke up, started greeting one another as they do, drank from a puddle in the river sand and then loped up the steep rocky bank to get going on their evening hunt. This took the form of getting to a track, then standing in the road and flicking their dish-shaped ears about to listen for any sound of prey species, as well as looking intently and sniffing the air for any worthwhile scent.

Suddenly they shot off down the track and it was game on! Following wild dogs on the hunt is virtually impossible in a vehicle. They best footage there is of wild dog hunts has been taken by drones because they shotgun off in different directions and invariably regroup again some distance away.

The light was fading fast and we were far from the lodge, but I decided to continue driving down the track and see what we could see. The pups are approximately six months old now, and hunt with the pack, but this often entails them waiting in a clearing or on a road until they are actually called to the kill by the adults. The adults will chase down a prey species like impala, sometimes in a relay until the animal is just too exhausted to run anymore, then swiftly kill it by ripping it apart and disembowelling it or suffocating it. Once it is dead they give a particular hooting call for the rest of the pack and the pups to come and feed on the meat.

While the adults were off hunting we parked on the road and waited. Some of the pups were waiting there too, listening out for their orders, but also quite interested and curious about us. The final two photos in this story are of two adorable pups who sidled up alongside us and pretended to be absolutely fascinated by a little bush, but all the time watching us, the vehicle and the interesting sights in the clicking camera lenses, the unusual scents and generally solving the puzzle of what we were. It was such a special and intimate time.

Before long they got the call they were waiting for, and they were off into the thickets where we couldn’t follow, to hopefully have a nourishing dinner.