Herewith an answer from the expert.
Below is an excerpt from our soon to be released new guide book.
Marginal wild dogs
WILD dogs are the rarest large carnivore in the Kalahari. Because of their high metabolic rate, they need a constant food supply and are the first of the large carnivores to disappear in areas of low rainfall, where the average annual rainfall dips below 350 mm. They are, therefore, at best a marginal species in the KTP. No resident packs in the southern KTP have been recorded since 1974, when eight dogs settled near Twee Rivieren in the Auob riverbed. Then one fateful day in February 1975, they left the park and entered farming areas to the south. Within 24 hours, two had been shot, after which the remaining six returned to the park.
Fearing that they might again leave the park with similar disastrous consequences, we decided to try and catch them so that they could be released near Nossob camp, in the centre of the park. This operation, however, was not very successful: we lost one wild dog during the capture operation, and when we released the remaining five, the pack split up. Three were not seen again, and two males remained in the area only a few months before they too disappeared.
During the next few years, there were a handful of sightings of wild dogs in the northern Nossob reaches of the KTP. Our next encounter with wild dogs was with a single female at Nossob camp in December 1978. After that we had to wait another two years before experiencing perhaps the most spectacular wild dog sighting in the KTP.
We were following two spotted hyaenas along the Nossob riverbed above Leijersdraai. Conditions were very dry, and there was no game in sight. It was four o'clock in the morning and we were seriously considering packing in and not punishing ourselves any longer. Suddenly, the hyaenas veered to one side. In the moonlight we saw eight wild dogs running towards them. The dogs did not pursue the hyaenas, however, and the hyaenas stopped about 50 metres away and stood looking back at the wild dogs.
The dogs quickly lost interest in the hyaenas, but were extremely interested in our vehicle. They came right up to it and, even when we shone a spotlight on them, they showed no concern. This was probably the first time they had ever seen a vehicle. We decided to remain with the dogs, and when the hyaenas moved on we stayed behind. A few minutes later we noticed more movement in the direction from which the dogs had come. On switching on the spotlight there, moving slowly towards us, were another 15 wild dogs: four adults accompanied by eleven pups, each about one third the size of an adult dog.
After the pups and the rest of the adult dogs had gotten used to the truck, the pack laid down and went to sleep around the vehicle. At daybreak, they began to stir. At first one or two got up, stretched, and started to groom themselves. Gradually, the entire pack followed their example, and soon all 23 were gambolling around the vehicle, chasing one another back and forth, the white tips of their tails striking in the early light.
A few of the adults started ranging out independently in different directions, stopping to survey the surroundings. At this stage, a brown hyaena was seen making its way along the road some 200 metres away. The hyaena did not appear to notice the dogs, and the dogs showed only mild interest in the hyaena. This contrasted their reaction earlier, when they had seen the spotted hyaenas. Spotted hyaenas compete with wild dogs and often steal their food, whereas brown hyaenas pose no threat to wild dogs.
A lone gemsbok approached, took one look at the dogs, and quickly departed in the opposite direction. Eventually the dogs started moving off, closing ranks as they did so. The direction they took was back into the dunes in the Botswana section of the park. After they had been travelling for half an hour, one flushed a steenbok, which was immediately pursued by six of the adults. Within a kilometre they had caught it. The steenbok doubled back as the leading dog lunged at it, only to be caught by those coming up behind. Within a few seconds the bleating stopped as the dogs tore the steenbok apart.
We then witnessed one of the most remarkable traits in the behaviour of these fascinating creatures: The pups came running up to the six feeding adults, which immediately left the food for the little ones. Wild dogs are the only carnivores that allow their young to eat before the adults. One steenbok does not go far among so many ravenous mouths, and within five minutes of it being killed, all that was left were legs, the skull, and some skin.
Soon after this incident, a small pack of wild dogs settled around Nossob camp and were seen intermittently in the area, even managing to raise pups. They also caught the one and only impala which had lived in the park for five years. They have not been seen since February 1984. Since then, only a very few sporadic sightings of wild dogs have been reported in the KTP.
The Lewis Foundation South Africa
Head: Field Guiding
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Parkjan.email@example.com