African Wild Dogs - Safari magic with Kwando safaris in Botswana
Wild Dog Magic with Kwando Safaris
Sometimes during the safari season everything magically comes together to provide the visiting wildlife enthusiasts and photographers with an opportunity of a lifetime. We all know that seeing African Wild Dogs – now sometimes called African Painted Dogs – is incredibly rare and a real privilege for visitors to Africa. So you can imagine how the team at Kwando Safaris felt during summer this year, when not one, not two, but three packs of African Wild Dogs denned close to their beautiful camps and lodges.
The first puppies to be seen were at their Lebala Camp, when 14 mischievous bundles of fun appears giving clients staying at Lebala and Lagoon memories to treasure for a lifetime. They were first seen in late June this year and continues to be viewed throughout the months of July and August. The next den to be discovered was close to their Lagoon Camp, with a total of 8 new puppies for this pack to welcome to the family. At this time Kwando safaris were aware of Den activity at their Kwara Camp but no puppies had yet been sighted. However not to be outdone by the other camps, guests staying at Kwara during the month of August observed no less than 4 different Wild Dog packs!
African Wild Dogs in Botswana – When is the best time to visit?
The team at Kwando safaris will tell you that they see the most Wild Dog denning activity in the high season and for sure interaction with the new puppies and observation of the entire Wild Dog family is good at this time of year. However the Wild Dogs packs during May and June are preparing to Den and are active on a daily basis. With less human visitors and the wilderness still looking green after the winter rains, the very start of the dry season in Northern Botswana is an excellent time to see Wild Dogs as well as other predators. As long as the prey density remains high and the level of protection strong, the Kwando concession will continue to be a stronghold for African Wild Dogs for the foreseeable future.
We have decided to time our Botswana safari in May for the reasons stated above, but also because this is the last month that Kwando provide mid-season rates for their superb properties. We have always tried to make our safaris relatively affordable (certainly compared to other UK operators) and with the recent collapse of sterling against the USD, we feel it is even more important to look at the seasonality of the departure.
How to view African Wild Dogs in an ethical manner?
We always have our own ethical code which we follow, whether we are photographing tigers in India, brown bears in Alaska, or leopards in the Mara. However one of the big advantages of viewing predators in a private concession, is the company which owned that concession can be pro-active in the way it manages the wildlife safaris on its land. There is nothing more sensitive in the animal kingdom than photographing near a den. African Wild Dogs will move their den and potentially endanger the lives of their offspring if visitors get too close to the den, or ‘crowd’ the den by too many vehicles being present. This is where a company like Kwando safaris leads the way by insisting on a maximum limit of two vehicles at each den site to avoid disturbing the Wild Dog pack.
African Wild Dog Denning Site – How the Alpha Female looks after the puppies
When the Wild Dog puppies are newly born a period of high vigilance will commence amongst the Wild Dog pack and the Alpha female will not leave the den at all for several weeks. A healthy large pack of Wild Dogs can drive off potential predators such as leopards and individual lions, but they must be on the alert to opportunistic killers such as Hyena or larger prides of Lions who share their territory.
Status of African Wild Dogs –Endangered
African Wild Dogs have disappeared from much of their former range. Their population is currently estimated at approximately 6,600 adults in 39 subpopulations, of which only 1,400 are mature individuals. Population size is continuing to decline as a result of ongoing habitat fragmentation, conflict with human activities, and infectious disease.
Historical data indicate that African Wild Dogs were formerly distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa, from desert (Lhotse 1946) to mountain summits (Thesiger 1970), and probably were absent only from lowland rainforest and the driest desert (Schaller 1972). They have disappeared from much of their former range. The species is virtually eradicated from North and West Africa, and greatly reduced in Central Africa and North-east Africa. The largest populations remain in southern Africa (especially northern Botswana, western Zimbabwe, eastern Namibia, and western Zambia) and the southern part of East Africa - especially Tanzania and northern Mozambique. (Source ICUN Red List of Threatened Species)
How to book your African Wild Dog safari?
Wildlife Trails have teamed up with the highly regarded Kwando safaris to put together a very special safari focused on African wild dogs and big cats; staying at their Lebala, Lagoon and Kwara camps. This small group tour limited to 8 guests and a maximum of 4 clients per safari vehicle will head out to the Kwando concession in early May to enjoy a very special Botswana safari. Click here to book your Wild Dog Magic safari.