Kapama Private game reserve is a private reserve ranging between 13000 and 14000 hectres. Tourists come to Kapama in big numbers specifically to come on the safaris to view the animals. However, we also offer extra activities such as the bush walk and elephant interaction.
I went out on a walk with one of my fellow rangers Joe and nine of our guests. After explaining the safety regulations we start our walk. Myself and Collen (Joe’s tracker) picked up some rhino tracks so we decided to follow.
After following for quite some time (talking about trees and bugs along the way) we found the three rhinos lying next to the road. Everyone was extremely excited and took tons of photos. There were also some zebras and impala with us. The impala saw us and unfortunately scared off the rhinos.
It is always important to remember that there is no guarantee of seeing one of the big 5 but the experience is still enjoyable as we teach you about the smaller things in the bush and how they play an important role in nature.
Harry – Kapama River Lodge
It all started one morning; all my guests wanted to see was a leopard so I decided to look and try and find one for them. While we were looking for tracks I heard on the radio that one had been found so I made my way there.
Unfortunately, when we got there they had lost visual so I tried to relocate this shy animal. Luckily we could find it and we followed it through the bush right up to a dam where he lay down for a “cat nap”. “What a wonderful animal” my guests said. Once the leopard woke up and slowly moved off, we tried to follow him again but it was too thick to go in so I decided to go around the block to see if he would come out.
As we got to an opening and went in, to my surprise a cheetah came out the other side. I thought to myself what a strange swap! A leopard goes in the one side of the block and a cheetah comes out the other side – just another reason to expect the unexpected in the wild.
Bryan – Kapama River Lodge
We started off this morning with a light drizzle coming down , nothing much so we decided to grab our rain coats and gear so that we could head out see what we can find. We weren’t expecting to see too much as we know what it can be like in the rain.
As we go along to a dam to go see if we can find some hippos, we came across some lion tracks but we were convinced that it is not fresh so we push on to the dam where we found a few hippos. We were having a good time sitting and watching the hippos when we got some audio of a male lion not too far away. We decided to head in that direction but as I start the car to back up, my tracker spots this male lion about 20 metres from us coming to the water. We were all very surprised to see him in the rain. As he got closer we see a female in the distance. This was truly amazing but it was not the end.
As we left the lions, we started to head back to the lodge and on our way back we came across a female rhino and her baby; they were not moving much because of the rain, trying to keep warm. This was a nice a day in the African bush, or rain I would say. This brings me to say, never underestimate the African bush.
JT – Kapama River Lodge
So why do the rangers go crazy when they see it? It is not as attractive as the leopard. Not as majestic as the lion. Not as fast as the cheetah and not as strong as the hyena. In fact most people find this animal quite ugly. With a skin that looks like a building contractor spilled paint on it, ears that seem way too big for the head and a near anorexic build, the wild dog is definitely not one of the animals that look spectacular. But as a matter of fact they are.
The scientific name Lycaon pictus means painted wolf.
They are one of the most successful hunters in the African bush, but are still an endangered species. Because of their looks, farmers believed they were a mixed breed of domestic dogs that became wild and hunted their livestock. Thus driving farmers to shoot them. It was only later that humans discovered this was a species on its own and quite a spectacular one at that. There is believed to be between 2000 and 5000 of these dogs left in total around the world in scattered patches throughout sub-Sahara Africa.
Those long legs and slim build makes them extremely energy efficient and enables them to run for miles and miles without stopping. They run their prey to exhaustion and then swiftly kill them once the prey can not run away anymore. This way of hunting is extremely effective and results in about 80% of attempted hunts, successful. Eating large chunks helps them to take food back to regurgitate for the pups and adults left back at the den.
The big ears are made to hear pack calls over long distances as they can travel as far as 5km (3miles) traveling at about 50-56km/h in a hunt. They make high pitched bird-like sounds when hunting, moaning sounds when in danger and barking sounds when around the den. The ears are also believed to help with heat loss in the warm climates.
The “painted” skin helps the dogs to blend in with the environment. Not necessarily to remain hidden from prey, as they can easily catch up with the prey over a long distance, but to remain hidden from other predators like lion and leopard.
They live in family groups with an alpha male and alpha female to lead hunts and mate. The other members of the pack are pups and mostly other adult subordinate males. The pack bonds are very strong as dogs will urinate on each other in order to “mark” one another as family members. They also display an almost human-like greeting behavior when the hunting dogs return to the den after a hunt.
There are many, many more amazing facts about these animals, way too much to elaborate now.
So to answer the question in short. Why do rangers go crazy when they see wild dogs? Because most people never get the opportunity to see them. Even rangers can remember exactly how many times they have seen them. And is it a very rare species of one of the most fantastic and unique animals to be found in this ever exciting place called Africa.
Jacques Beukes – Kapama River Lodge