What started out as a normal social gathering of the wild dog pack prior to a hunt, with all the regular cat and mouse chases to warm and stretch the muscles, turned into a three-hour extravaganza. First the pack, which consists of eighteen animals, set their sights on a small impala, which I now realise was only the starting event as they caught and consumed it within a few minutes. Naturally such a pack terrorises everything in their path; but one would not expect them to split and divide a herd of buffalo with malicious intent. I had heard of this happening on the odd occasion but did not expect it to occur at Mombo. Mombo has such an abundance of wildlife that predators are quite spoilt for choice. And now this bizarre hunt was taking place right in front of onlooking herds of impala, lechwe and even kudu.
The pack of ravenous African wild dogs was 100% focused on the herd of giants; nothing was going to distract their attention. Time and time again they would storm the herd, getting them stirred up and galloping in all directions – a strategy used mostly to single out an animal, or even better a calf. Mombo buffalo are used to such attacks given the area’s high predator densities, so the adults kept the calves safely enclosed within their wall of muscle. At one point a single calf walked out to see what the commotion was about, and there was an immediate response from every dog on the attack. The herd quickly brought the calf back, much to the disappointment of the hungry canids.
Breaking the herd
Moments after herding the calf back in, an adult lost focus and became detached from the herd. The dogs were quick to build a wall and begin their ferocious attack on the bewildered animal. Taking turns they would charge and nip at the much larger prey until they broke her nerve and the chase was on. Into the tree-line they ran; eighteen dogs running rings around the frightened buffalo to wear her down. We battled to maintain a visual as the buffalo led us into thicker vegetation, flushing steenbok and an unfortunate impala foal which was snapped up by two lionesses who appeared from nowhere. Following the hunt we continued into thicker scrub and the commotion attracted another pack; but this time it was seven spotted hyaena trying to capitalise on the tiring herbivore.
Singling out the prey
The new predators’ arrival broke the rhythm of the hunt, giving the much larger cow time to breathe and rethink her strategy. The bovine grew some nerves and backed herself into a thicket, providing cover for her rear as she faced her challengers. Once again the dogs and hyaena tried to get the buffalo to break free and run, but this time she held her ground. After ten minutes of pondering the situation the dogs were off to find easier targets, with the hyaena closely in tow.
A surprise intruder
The competing pack
Calling it a day
Rethinking their strategy
Written and Photographed by Deon de Villiers