The Wild Dogs of Africa
What an incredible species! It was so fun to track them across Botswana and finally catch up with them in Salinda.
Look, I sound like I know what I’m talking about, doesn’t it? I really don’t. Well, a little bit thanks to my friend Neville Jones who was my gallant trailfinder on this African adventure. He’s quite the African Explorer. He’s been to Botswana 7 times and never seen the Wild Dog before, so I can tell this is Kind Of A Big Deal.
We were staying at the Great Plains in Salinda — wow what a place! This fits perfectly into my wheelhouse because my idea of “roughing it” is slow room service. This amazing place is owned by Dereck & Beverly Joubert, who are now friends after our elongated stay! We had a wonderful dinner where they grilled me on social media! Haha… I had to think fast! I don’t remember what sort of advice I gave them, but it was just the beginning since I have a feeling I will work with them again… maybe on their great White Rhino conservation project.
Well this article is about the also Quite Endangered Wild Dogs, also known as the Painted Wolf. I like Painted Wolf better, don’t you? That’s a straight translation from the Latin Lycaon Pictus; another name that I also like is the Painted Ornate. It sounds like a Magic: The Gathering rare card doesn’t it? Awesome.
What Neville (and most people) find most fascinating about the Painted Wolf is their social structure. They live and hunt fiercely in packs. There’s a dominant male and female. They mate but the whole pack takes care of the young. They nestle the very young inside underground burrows that were made by warthogs or ardwolves (I didn’t think that was a real animal either — I feel like I should not have stayed home sick so much during kindergarten where normal kids Learn Their Animals).
The pack that we saw had eight members, and you could see how social and playful they are. There is also a wildness there. Sometimes, one would get close to me. I saw a regular, wonderful dog there… but sometimes you’d get a glimpse of a crazy-eyed-killer. There was something else feral and inter-dimensional going on in there…
One interesting thing (among MANY) about the Painted Wolves is how intimate they are with loving one another after waking up. They lick and nuzzle each other, a canine bacchanalia. At some point, the Alpha Male decides it’s time to hunt. Most of the pack takes off at 50km/h through the bush. They spread out like ebola and take down prey as they converge, as if they are a US Navy Seal team controlled via infrared by satellite. They quickly eat all they can and sprint back home before they can digest. The younglings chew on the bottom lip of the older dogs who regurgitate the viscera in a waterfall of ambrosial carnivorism.
I’m glad that the amazing Dereck & Beverly Joubert have done so much to influence the policies of Botswana to keep all these awesome animals wild. I felt like I was on a Star Trek away mission, watching an alien species that I didn’t even know existed for the trip. Thank you, Neville.