Not your Average Morning in Camp

Aug 31, 2012 |  Conservation & Wildlife
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One does not always have to travel out of camp to enjoy an incredible sighting. One morning while waiting for the camp to kick into life after the early morning routine, a waitress observed a lone wild dog running past the main area at Vumbura Plains South Camp.

No sooner had she hailed the staff busy with their first cup of morning coffee than we were belting down the boardwalk trying to locate the dog. A brief rustle in the undergrowth ahead of us led us further along the winding boardwalk towards Room 4.

We still had not caught sight of the dog and decided to try the deck of Room 4 to see if we could locate it. Not having had time to grab even binoculars we were all scanning to get a glimpse of the dog. Arriving at the pool deck we saw it with its head down amongst the undergrowth tugging at something. Suddenly it lifted its head and we could see a bright crimson muzzle, clearly breakfast was in progress. We caught a glimpse of a fawn coloured leg and deduced that one of the local impala had fallen to a dog once again.

What happened next is still open to debate. The dog suddenly stopped its feeding and pricked its ears. We could hear an angry scream from an elephant further along the woodland to the north and off the dog went, leaving its meal behind. We envisioned the local pack being brought back to devour the impala but 30 minutes later there was still no sign of a single dog. In fact we heard a plaintive wild dog contact call in the distance and then silence reigned.

Having satisfied ourselves that the dog or dogs were no longer coming back, we decided to take a closer look at the kill. One can see the bright crimson blood splatter, possibly from a severed artery, and the minimal damage inflicted on the impala. Clearly a very fresh kill and also showing how fast this animal died from shock through blood loss. Not a single mark on the neck or nose, simply a tear in the groin area exposing the vital organs. Hardly any meat had been torn off by the dog.

So why did the dog leave and not come back?

Well firstly it is unusual for a single dog to make a kill but I have witnessed this on a few occasions. What usually then transpires is the dog will run off to locate the rest of the pack and lead them back to the kill or the rest of the pack “catch up” to the lone dog and the kill is subsequently devoured in a matter of minutes.

Being late June, the dogs are now into their denning period and they can be observed making a kill and then running off back to the den within minutes of devouring their prey. Perhaps this dog was separated from the pack as they chased multiple targets. Perhaps it heard the commotion of the elephant and assumed its pack mates were close by but then discovered they were not. Perhaps the pack sounded the return to the den and the dog responded to this.

This is one of the wonders of bush life. There are still many unexplained events and while we can try and come up with logical and rational explanations, ultimately we simply do not know and I like it that way. We need a bit of mystery in life to keep it interesting and entertaining.

What happened to the impala you ask? Later that evening one of the local spotted hyaena’s that frequent the camp on their nocturnal foraging forays got lucky and made off with the carcass.

Nothing goes to waste in the bush.

Ant

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By Anthony Bennet

Anthony heads the guide training and assessing department in Botswana for Wilderness Safaris. He has a keen interest in nature photography, birdlife and animal behaviour. Ant has done epic trails through some of the most pristine bush around.

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