We had wanted to see wild dogs quite badly as there are none in Phinda. Wild dogs are expensive to maintain because of the amount of prey they kill. Unlike other pack animals, wild dogs hunt individually and share the food at the end. For example, a group of 10 wild dogs would split up to hunt, not all would be successful (our guide tells us that on average, 3 would come back with food) but they would still not be able to finish their meal. As a result, prey is wasted and thus it is not economically viable to keep wild dogs unless they bring in a significant amount of visitors. (An impala would cost about 500USD, if a pack kills 3 a day, that would be 1,500USD lost).
So, wild dogs are pretty hard to see. Even in Kruger they are very elusive. We stumbled onto this group after someone nearby radioed in saying that spotted a pack near a watering hole.
When we arrived they were all gathering around the edges of the waterhole. Trying to catch a duck who had been just chilling in the middle of the lake. I watched this for a while, laughing at the impossibility of the situation. They do realize that the duck is just going to fly away, right? Must have been a slow day.
Just before anyone committed to an attack, one member of the pack leaped in, face covered with blood. He had made a kill.
Spared from the embarrassment of trying to catch a duck in the middle of a pond, everyone followed the one with the bloody nose.
And off they went!
They went into some bushes and we lost them for a while but we managed to regroup with them only to be greeted by this gruesome sight.
It was an absolute frenzy. One of them had brutalized the impala and were now ripping the poor thing apart. Our vehicle let out a synchronized “Ugh” when one of them tore off the impala’s ear and ate it. Brutal.
They completely disregarded the presence of the vehicle and continued feeding. One was even startled when its tail brushed against the wheel of the vehicle. He literally jumped in fear, but obviously he continued with his meal.
A close-up to see the mesh of bodies feasting on the bloodied impala.
What was really touching though, was that that there was actually one wild dog who was nursing inside their wild dog cave. Reports say that she had given birth only a week ago and couldn’t leave the pups alone for fear of predators. As the frenzy continued, one of them actually left the group to take over the pup-watching responsibilities of the nursing mother. It was really heartwarming to see the mother arrive and greeted by hugs and licks from everyone in the group. As she started feeding on the mutilated prey I had a strange sense of respect for these animals who could really take care of each other but also a strong gagging feeling of disgust from the sputter of blood, bones and flesh. Wild dogs fascinate me.