Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dogged Behavior

We continue to have excellent luck with a pack of wild dogs hanging out near Kiba. Wild dogs sightings are among the most exciting in the east African bush. It's not just because they are the rarest of all the large carnivores; it's also because they exhibit so much behavior that even when they're resting, there is almost always something to watch.

Dogs live in very tight-knit packs and the interaction of pack members is critical to their survival. The packs are led by an alpha male and an alpha female, who monopolizes breeding rights within the pack. Dogs scent mark prodigiously with their urine, especially the alpha pair who often mark together as a form of bonding. Sometimes they even get a bit acrobatic about it, such as this alpha male who marked while doing a handstand.

Dogs also have oversized ears that can move independently of each other, enabling them to pick up the slightest sounds. In this sequence of pictures, you can see the radial mobility of the ears.

As I mentioned in my last post, dogs are the best hunters. They are coursers, which means that they give chase until the prey is too worn out to continue. But they still will do their best to close the gap before they begin the chase. As demonstrated in this picture, dogs stalk prey shoulder to shoulder with their heads low, which helps them to avoid being spotted by antelope by hiding the most recognizable part of their silhouette.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Not called Hunting Dogs for nothing

I recently returned to Kiba Point from a long vacation and it is wonderful to be back. It's been a very exciting few days. The most recent group of guests were treated to some fantastic elephant and lion sightings as well as two leopard cubs in a baobab tree. But to top it off, they got to see wild dogs for two straight days right very close to camp! We've been getting a bit of rain and the days have been overcast, which means that the weather has been perfect for these diurnal carnivores to hunt. We tracked the dogs from the garden up to the miombo woodland around the kiba airstrip where they caught a young impala.
Since a baby impala is worth hardly more than a snack, the dogs were quickly ready to set off again. Unfortunately, I had to head back to camp but the guests stuck around to see the dogs bolt the length of the airstrip in pursuit of some unlucky impala. Wild dogs run too fast and too far to follow them on a chase, but since dogs are the most effecient hunters of all the large carnivores, it would have taken more than a little luck for all of the impala to escape. Given how well fed the dogs looked the next day, their hunting skills certainly weren't lacking.