A strange swap

It all started one morning; all my guests wanted to see was a leopard so I decided to look and try and find one for them. While we were looking for tracks I heard on the radio that one had been found so I made my way there.

Unfortunately, when we got there they had lost visual so I tried to relocate this shy animal. Luckily we could find it and we followed it through the bush right up to a dam where he lay down for a “cat nap”. “What a wonderful animal” my guests said. Once the leopard woke up and slowly moved off, we tried to follow him again but it was too thick to go in so I decided to go around the block to see if he would come out.

As we got to an opening and went in, to my surprise a cheetah came out the other side. I thought to myself what a strange swap! A leopard goes in the one side of the block and a cheetah comes out the other side – just another reason to expect the unexpected in the wild.

Bryan – Kapama River Lodge

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The drizzle surprise

We started off this morning with a light drizzle coming down , nothing much so we decided to grab our rain coats and gear so that we could head out see what we can find. We weren’t expecting to see too much as we know what it can be like in the rain.

As we go along to a dam to go see if we can find some hippos, we came across some lion tracks but we were convinced that it is not fresh so we push on to the dam where we found a few hippos. We were having a good time sitting and watching the hippos when we got some audio of a male lion not too far away. We decided to head in that direction but as I start the car to back up, my tracker spots this male lion about 20 metres from us coming to the water. We were all very surprised to see him in the rain. As he got closer we see a female in the distance. This was truly amazing but it was not the end.

As we left the lions, we started to head back to the lodge and on our way back we came across a female rhino and her baby; they were not moving much because of the rain, trying to keep warm. This was a nice a day in the African bush, or rain I would say. This brings me to say, never underestimate the African bush.

JT – Kapama River Lodge

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Excitement at Kapama Private Game Reserve as 10 new members travel through

So why do the rangers go crazy when they see it? It is not as attractive as the leopard. Not as majestic as the lion. Not as fast as the cheetah and not as strong as the hyena. In fact most people find this animal quite ugly. With a skin that looks like a building contractor spilled paint on it, ears that seem way too big for the head and a near anorexic build, the wild dog is definitely not one of the animals that look spectacular. But as a matter of fact they are.

The scientific name Lycaon pictus means painted wolf.

They are one of the most successful hunters in the African bush, but are still an endangered species. Because of their looks, farmers believed they were a mixed breed of domestic dogs that became wild and hunted their livestock. Thus driving farmers to shoot them. It was only later that humans discovered this was a species on its own and quite a spectacular one at that. There is believed to be between 2000 and 5000 of these dogs left in total around the world in scattered patches throughout sub-Sahara Africa.

Those long legs and slim build makes them extremely energy efficient and enables them to run for miles and miles without stopping. They run their prey to exhaustion and then swiftly kill them once the prey can not run away anymore. This way of hunting is extremely effective and results in about 80% of attempted hunts, successful. Eating large chunks helps them to take food back to regurgitate for the pups and adults left back at the den.

The big ears are made to hear pack calls over long distances as they can travel as far as 5km (3miles) traveling at about 50-56km/h in a hunt. They make high pitched bird-like sounds when hunting, moaning sounds when in danger and barking sounds when around the den. The ears are also believed to help with heat loss in the warm climates.

The “painted” skin helps the dogs to blend in with the environment. Not necessarily to remain hidden from prey, as they can easily catch up with the prey over a long distance, but to remain hidden from other predators like lion and leopard.

They live in family groups with an alpha male and alpha female to lead hunts and mate. The other members of the pack are pups and mostly other adult subordinate males. The pack bonds are very strong as dogs will urinate on each other in order to “mark” one another as family members. They also display an almost human-like greeting behavior when the hunting dogs return to the den after a hunt.

There are many, many more amazing facts about these animals, way too much to elaborate now.

So to answer the question in short. Why do rangers go crazy when they see wild dogs? Because most people never get the opportunity to see them. Even rangers can remember exactly how many times they have seen them. And is it a very rare species of one of the most fantastic and unique animals to be found in this ever exciting place called Africa.

Jacques Beukes – Kapama River Lodge

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Painted Dogs

With great surprise to most rangers, we have been very fortunate to have a pack of wild dogs on Kapama for the last few days. Wild dogs are not often seen but when they are they are amazing to watch and spend time with.

They are the largest Canid in Africa and the second largest in the world after the grey wolf. Adults weigh between 18 and 36 kilograms and are tall and lean animals made to cover large distances hunting down their prey. There are very little visible differences between the males and females other than the fact that males are usually a bit larger in their body size.

Wild dogs will reproduce at any time of year but mating peaks between March and June. Their gestation is approximately 70 days and litters contain anything between 2 and 19 pups. They reach sexual maturity between 12 and 18 months and have an expected life span of about 10 to 12 years in the wild.

Wild dogs are extremely interesting animals and definitely worth watching and experiencing. An amazing opportunity has fallen upon Kapama and we all hope that it will continue.

FW – Kapama River Lodge

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Every so often

Every so often, we witness something spectacular here on Kapama; something that we do not expect to experience. It is something that is not seen on a regular basis and, if seen, is an amazing and once-in-a-lifetime sighting. Something that deserves so much credit is a pack of wild dogs.

Very endangered and vigilant animals, wild dogs walk through reserves regardless of any kinds of obstacles and we have been lucky enough to have a pack of wild dogs on the Kapama property for the last couple of days.

Wild dogs are extremely endangered and regardless of the quality of the sighting, it is still a very special experience that we as rangers also cherish. Wild dogs are known to roam around extremely large areas do to their need to hunting almost every day. They live and hunt in packs therefore there are many mouths to feed. Even though the dogs can give birth to up to twelve pups, unfortunately, their survival rate is not high.

Many of our guests do not know anything about these amazing creatures. Needless to say that they are one of Africa’s most endangered species due to a loss of habitat. For those of you that are not aware of these canines, they are referred to as Africa’s painted dogs due to their unique patterned coats – different colours such as black, white, brown and ginger are visible.

The African wild dogs are extremely successful hunters. Working in packs, surrounding their prey, tiring their prey, and starting to eat while the animal is alive contribute to their success.

While out on our game drive, one of my guests actually asked about wild dogs. I explained that there is a pack that comes through the reserve every now and then but chances are not great of seeing them as they move for very far distances at a time.

That was the end of our conversation about wild dogs until this morning. One of the other rangers had spotted them in the area in which we were driving. So we decided to head that way. Before we got there they had lost visual. I thought to myself we’ll probably not see them again. When we got to a nearby dam, there they were drinking water and keeping their eyes on the hippo inside the water.

To our surprise, they starting antagonizing the hippo until it came out the water – probably to chase them away. However, the wild dogs decided to surround this hippo. The hippo was clearly confused – “what are these small creatures doing”. And then it realized that being in the middle of a pack of wild dogs was not a good place to be. He then quickly bolted back into the water for protection. The wild dogs then realized that he would not come out any time soon and moved off.

To be able to experience something like this is not even thought of in the life of a ranger. Seeing wild dogs on its own is a great experience but to see them taking on a fully grown hippo is definitely unheard of.

My guests and I could not comprehend what we just saw and it took sometime for us to soak it all up. What an amazing day it was.

Welcome to the wild dogs. May they decide to stick around in this area for a while.

KC – Kapama River Lodge

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