Sighting: Seba is wild with dogs
Location: Seba Camp, Abu Concession, Botswana
Date: 20 March 2013
Photographer: Mike Marchington and Dana Allen
Observers: Anne Marchington
On the 20th of March, Seba Camp woke up to the news that a pack of wild dogs had spent the night on their doorstep. The arrival of a pack of 16 dogs in an area that has not traditionally seen wild dogs for many years had everyone in a fluster of excitement.
With little knowledge of previous sightings in the concession, we decided to start investigating whether or not this pack had been spotted anywhere on the Abu Concession before or on any of the neighbouring concessions. Our line of enquiry started with John Sobey who has spent many years in the area and is a co-owner of African Horseback Safaris. John mentioned that they had observed two packs of dogs in the past, one pack of 14 and another of 19. John then kindly forwarded the pictures we’d taken on to the expert, Tico McNutt, from the Predator Conservation Trust, who filled in the gaps with the following amazing account of this pack of dogs:
“Very exciting news about this pack showing up at Seba. John Sobey forwarded your pictures this morning and so I thought I might fill you in on what we know about them.
"Your set of photos shows the dominant pair very nicely. Both are fairly old dogs and, in fact, the male is the probable father to all the others, and is a dog we have an interesting known history on (with a few gaps prior to your sighting). He was born in the Xakanaxa Pack, one of our focal study packs, in 2007. He dispersed with an older brother and at least one littermate brother in late 2008. The older brother was wearing a VHF radio collar at the time and, following a report from Cecil Riggs on NG29 of a sighting of a collared dog in May 2009, I tracked them down from the air. They had a den only about seven kilometres from the fence, not far from the eastern edge of the lower sand tongue only a few hundred metres from the water. Cecil reported they were seven adults at the time.
"I expect from looking at the (probable) age of the female in your pic attached, she was probably part of that original pack too. Since early in 2010, however, I was never able to pick up a signal from the collared male and I presumed he had died. There have been very few reports from that area since then (a several-year gap in information). So what a great surprise that this Xakanaxa male is still there as the dominant male in a notably successful pack in the western Delta - the first pack that I know of since the remaining three females from the small pack that denned near Horseback in 2006 disappeared and left the area altogether in mid-2008 (curiously, they turned up briefly in Santawane before we lost track of them).
"The dark faces and generally dark coats seen in the pack at Seba with a lot of black markings is a characteristic that is traceable back to the dominant male's great grandfather who was the dominant male of the Mochaba (Khwai) Pack in 1989-94 - a dog we called Midnight (because he was black almost like a labrador). Since Midnight's mate was also a charcoal dark dog (we called her Twilight) their pups for several years were unusually dark dogs, and these spawned a long lineage of successful packs in the region (including the Chitabe Pack, the Xakanaxa Pack, the Mababe Pack, the Horseback Pack (2006), the Kwara Pack, and shorter-lived packs all around Moremi) with these dark faces and generally dark colouration.
"I have been looking for a good ID picture of the male in photo to show you, but at the moment I have found only one partial shot of him as a yearling in 2008 regurgitating with a sibling to his younger siblings, the Xakanaxa Pack 2008 pups. You can see with some careful scrutiny the identical markings on his right foreleg and collar as your picture taken at Seba in the past couple days. It looks as though there might be another old male from Xakanaxa still in the pack as well but I have not been able to confirm this with photos yet.
Pretty interesting story from our perspective, and it’s great to know he is still alive and doing well.
JW McNutt, PhD
Botswana Predator Conservation Trust"
In our observations during their six-day stay, the alpha male and female were seen mating several times. We have it under good authority that if the pack liked what they saw, and were able to feed in our area, there is a good chance they might be back in two to three weeks’ time. This is about the time it takes to complete their extensive home range. It has also been suggested by people in the know that they will be on the hunt for a safe area in which to den. With all this good news in the pipeline we are waiting in anticipation for their next visit.