Selinda’s Wild Dogs

Posted by on Nov 27, 2010 in Trip Diary

Feeding time, Selinda, BotswanaDay 3, the engine’s turned off as we listen for any sound that might give us hope. Eight hours, maybe even a day, and not a clue as to where they are! Yes, I’ve returned to Selinda Reserve located in the Linyanti region of northern Botswana for my annual wild dog pilgrimage.

My vehicle sports some perplexed faces as I drive them almost over the edge with my persistency. “Who gives up after day three?” I ask as my partner in crime, Steve Kgwatalala, THE best wild dog guide in Africa, gives a grunt of frustration. We’re searching for the resident pack of 13 dogs and won’t be going home until we find them.

It’s day 4 and another early start. We’ve literally searched for the dogs in every direction except south, so we start heading towards Zarafa, Selinda’s sister camp. “We’ve one last place to try,” says the dog boss. “That’s the main road heading towards Kasane. If there are no tracks, I have no idea where the dogs have gone to.”

An hour and a half’s drive away, we set off just as the sun’s popping out, casting its beautiful amber hue across the glorious morning sky. I’m in heaven. I get a feeling today’s my lucky day.

We drive, our eyes scouring the sand road. Our day has begun with some fascinating sightings. A Pied Kingfisher perched on a branch trying to swallow a fish larger than its own body. A black mamba in a dead tree hunting baby squirrels, the parents shrieking with fear. We come across a caracal on the hunt; it pounces in front of us and catches another squirrel. These are some of the unusual sightings we are drawn to at Selinda. Finally, in the last possible place we could look, day old wild dog tracks. After searching around unsuccessfully for further clues we call it a day and head back to camp; our spirits are in over-drive as more creatures come out to play.

That afternoon with the weather cooler and an idea of where the dogs could be, we set off again on our mission. Whilst the original team has declined further by number, we have a new guest. “You want me to show you wild dogs?” I ask. He looks back with a face that says, yeah right, you’re mad! En route I collect my second lucky charm – a porcupine quill (Python being my first). We bump into a majestic leopard lazing under a small Acacia tree and watch a large herd of elephants coaxing a tiny baby to cross the lagoon. We scour the same road and we push the boundaries of the adjacent concession, but no fresh tracks. Dejection!

We stop for a sundowner. “We don’t have time,” says Steve. We’re on a mission as gloom sets in. We grab our drinks and climb back on board. We drive up a small hill, over a few fallen branches and around a corner – “DOGS!!” I scream. For there, no further than 3 meters away, bellies full, panting with success, are the wild dogs! They’re milling around – we count them quickly – it’s the pack of six adults and their seven pups.

I wink at the boss, his smile broader than the width of the Land Cruiser. I turn around, high five the new guest and say, “Never ever argue with a wild dog fanatic!”

For the next three days we follow the pack while they are on the move. We are privileged to watch the pack as they feed, protect and care for their young. Just like domestic dogs, wild dog pups are eternally amusing to watch, but careful observation also provides careful insights into their complex society. One of the highlights of being in a private concession is that we are able to get up close without harming or influencing them in any way.

Dogs are non-territorial animals and move from one place to another depending on the availability of food within the area of their choice. The Selinda dogs move between Kwando and the Selinda Reserve and often hunt inland towards Maun. Finding wild dogs is unpredictable and can be very hard work for they move vast distances in any given day,.

Today, wild dogs remain in peril. Persecuted by humans, destroyed by disease and  restricted due to loss of habitat, life for the wild dog continues to be a battle. The Linyanti area of Botswana remains one of the true wilderness areas where wild dogs have the space to roam free, making it one of the best places in Africa to view wild dogs in their natural habitat.

For those with a sense of adventure and a love for truly wild places, join XA African Safaris while we search, among an array of wildlife, for Africa’s second most endangered carnivore – the African Wild Dog.

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