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Watching Wild Dogs killing a wildebeest

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Feb 8th, 2007, 01:33 PM
  #1
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Watching Wild Dogs killing a wildebeest

I just came back from my trip to Tanzania yesterday, and I just wanted to share this experience before I go write my whole trip report… .

Long before I went to Tanzania and on safari, I knew that there were regular sightings of a pack of wild dogs around the Suyan campsite near Piyaya in the Gol Mountains. Since I would be going there I was quite excited about this, but I didn´t dare to expect to really see them over there.
We arrived around 15:30 in the camp, and we quite tired because we had been driving since 6:00 that morning. (we did an early gamedrive in Ndutu, before going to Suyan)
So all tired and dusty, we figured we would just take a shower and go relax and skip the afternoon gamedrive. After we showered we went to the dining tent to take a drink and sit just to relax from the view. Just after a few minutes we started getting a little bit nervous, just thinking about the fact that we were actually skipping a chance of seeing the dogs. So we decided to ask if we could still go on a drive after all. It was almost 17:00 and the two open vehicles of the camp and the guides had already left. But they arranged that one car would stop at the current location and wait for us, so our guide could bring us there with our own vehicle. So a bit while later we joined the open vehicle, standing on a hill overlooking quite some wildebeests, Thomson gazelles and zebra’s. The vehicle was watching 2 cheetahs to see if they would become active or not. So we joined the group, enjoyed a nice glass of wine while watching the cheetahs. The other guests in the car had seen the pack of dogs make a kill the day before so I got even more excited.

Slowly we could notice all the animals getting a bit nervous, as the sun was coming down. They were starting to make more noise, and from time to time some wildebeests just started running in all kinds of directions. This went on for some time and we knew something was bound to happen. Than all of a sudden someone spotted movement on the hill in front of us, and when we all looked we could just see ALL the animals on that hill running in a big cloud of dust. Just behind it we could distinguish 7 dots. The dogs!
Ethan (camp manager and excellent guide and driver of Suyan) told us to hold on and floored the gass pedal to drive us to the action. We chased the dogs and soon we were catching up on the laggards; the first wild dogs I had seen!
It quickly was evident which wildebeest they were aiming at, and we could see the wildebeest giving the dogs quite a good challenge. It managed to kick the dogs of a few time, but we all knew this would be a win for the dogs. When the wildebeest stopped running, and was fighting of the dogs standing, we were just a few meters away. I must admit, that I thought it was heartbreaking to see the wildebeest fighting for his life, and the dogs attacking it and already taking flesh from the legs. I was taking pictures as a madman, with the tears standing in my eyes.
One dog had the wildebeest by the nose, while others were on its neck and back legs. Together they brought the wildebeest down, and started ripping it apart. They ate fast and a lot, and after a while, the alpha female suddenly walked away; she was going back to the pups. We decided to follow here, to watch the pups. As soon as she was in sight, the pups ran enthousiastic towards her, and started begging for food. She regurated some, and then walked on to greet another grown up who stayed behind because of a leg injury (she would join the hunt the next day). She also regurated some food for the injured dog, and then went back to the pups. Not so long after that, the whole hill was in panic again; the 6 dogs were returning. All animals were fleeing again, but they went straight to the pups.
While watching them coming back, we also could see a hyena sitting in a ditch, not so far from the pups. Amazed by the fact that the hyena was staying there, we waited for one of the dogs to spot the hyena. That didn’t take so long, as soon as one dog spotted her, they all went for the hyena, pups included. They chased it away and the hyena crawled into another ditch, where she could defend herself better. They let her be, but left her limping away.

This was definitely the highlight of my trip; the mixture of emotions running through your body is hardly describable;
The tension of the animals getting nervous and the waiting, the rush of racing down the hill towards the action, the excitement of the knowledge that I would be seeing wild dogs, the sight of the wild dogs, and then the emotion of watching an animal desperately fighting for its life… pfew!

I managed to take some good pictures of all of this. I did leave out the really disgusting ones, but beware of some rough pictures

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nikao/s...7594525161323/

I will write about the next day, on which we saw the pack again, another time 


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Feb 8th, 2007, 01:55 PM
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Amazing, what good luck to not only see dogs, but to see the hunt, kill, social interactions and the interaction with the Hyena. In one sighting you have seen everything I've seen in 11 trips to Africa, brilliant!
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Feb 8th, 2007, 01:59 PM
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Nikao: Outstanding narrative and picture! It doesn't get any better than seeing the kill, puppies, and a hyena beating - wow!

Do you know the history of the dog den there. Is this a new den or has a pack denned in the general vicinity for a number of years?
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Feb 8th, 2007, 02:05 PM
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Just spectacular...thanks for giving us the opportunity to view what you saw.
Eric
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Feb 8th, 2007, 02:08 PM
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Wow!

Kevin from California
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Feb 8th, 2007, 02:19 PM
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Is the place spelled Piyaya or Piaya?
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Feb 8th, 2007, 02:19 PM
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That is a gripping narrative and an equally gripping set of pictures. To see that first-hand is the kind of experience we can all hope we have once in our lifetimes. Congratulations and thank you for sharing.

Chris
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Feb 8th, 2007, 02:19 PM
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Excellent! I just booked my trip for March, with Green Footprints. We'll be spending two nights at Suyan - fingers crossed for similarly memorable sightings!
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Feb 8th, 2007, 02:26 PM
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I am real new to this, but I had not heard of there being any wild dogs in East Africa other than in Selous in southern Tanzania and occasional sightings in Samburu in Kenya. Why are there not more wild dogs in East Africa? A pack of them seem to be the ultimate predator.

Also, I would imagine that is one lucky hyena who got away.

Kevin
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Feb 8th, 2007, 03:00 PM
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Kevin
I first saw them in 1981 between Lobo and Seronera This was my first real safari about 15 in the pack in a den by the side of the road
I saw them again in 1992 at place called Nabarera South of Tarangire National Park
They were standing by the side of the road. I saw them again in Ruaha National Park in 2000
this was my most recent sighting and they are fairly common in Ruaha on this trip I say them fighting with Hyena over a Impala kill
So they are around but not common and not easily seen
There numbers have been reduced considerably in the last 25 years by canine disease probably contracted from domestic dogs,persecution, and the loss of habitats
they roam over a large area so sightings are difficult
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Feb 8th, 2007, 03:41 PM
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Congrats and thanks for sharing the story and pics with us!
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Feb 8th, 2007, 04:43 PM
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Wow - what luck! I would have been shaking like a leaf (and probably choking up too much) to get shots like that. Those dogs are just beautiful. Poor wildie, but that's nature... thanks for sharing. What an experience!
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Feb 8th, 2007, 04:51 PM
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Amazing account. Great photos to go with it. You made the right decision to go on the drive vs. relax in the camp. Welcome home!
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Feb 8th, 2007, 05:00 PM
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WOW! Incredible luck!
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Feb 8th, 2007, 05:03 PM
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What an amazing experience! Thanks for sharing. I'm looking forward to hearing about the rest of your trip.
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Feb 8th, 2007, 06:20 PM
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Nikao,

Thanks for sharing........nice report to read also.

I am happy the dogs are back and doing well on the plains of the serengeti

Hari
 
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Feb 8th, 2007, 10:42 PM
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Great narrative and great photos.

I can only imagine the gruesome ones that were left out.
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Feb 8th, 2007, 10:53 PM
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thanks for all the enthousiastic replies

@predatorBiologist;

If I remember correctly, I think they were there last year as well. But at that time they didn't have pups, and were rarely seen. Now, with 10 pups they need to go out and hunt a lot.

@stakerk;

It's Piyaya. According to the website of Asilia, it's called the Loliondo area..

@Jamesc1982;

excellent choice (we went with greenfootprint as well).
You have a really good chance of seeing them!
But with the pups growing older and older, the dogs are going further and travel more. The guys at Suyan are tracking the dogs, and reporting everything to a German research society (don't remember exactly).
So the chance is still really big that you will see them, but not guaranteed. I recommend to go on all the game drives possible

@stakerk;

I have a book about wild dogs, that says they dissapeared from the serengeti somewhere in the late 90's, due to rabies one year, and another desease the next.

Due to the low numbers of dogs, they are extremely vulnerable for deseases.

And about the hyena, it looked to us that she was lucky as well. But according to some books, the dogs rarely kill a hyena (allthough they could), they just injure it to give a warning.

@cooncat;

I was choking up and shaking like a leave. Like I said; tears standing in my eyes, but I did my best to get good pictures of it, because this is a once in a lifetime oppurtunity ..
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Feb 9th, 2007, 02:33 AM
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That is and amazing experience,thanks for sharing the nice story and the spectacular pictures.
It is nice to hear that wild dogs are coming to Serengeti area.

Paco.
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Feb 9th, 2007, 04:03 AM
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I think I held my breath the whole time while reading your gripping report and seeing those amazing photos - oh my dog.

Questions;
How many dogs are in this pack (including pups) and does anyone have speculation of where their territory boundries are? Are any of these dogs tagged.
Thanks so much for sharing;
Sherry
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