Entering the Kruger National Park via the Paul Kruger Gate in the afternoon - we saw a pack of Wild Dogs almost immediately!
Wild Dogs in Kruger Park
Apparently, it's extremely tricky to sight African Wild Dogs on safari (even in Kruger Park) due to the large territories they cover while hunting. But, we got really lucky - seeing the Wild Dogs of Kruger up close, more than once!
We got to watch the Wild Dogs lazing beside the road in plain view, en route to our overnight accommodation at Skukuza rest camp.
Later on our sunset game drive we again sighted these endangered Wild Dogs lying beside the road looking dog-tired in the heat of the bush.
Wild Dog VS Hyena
I don’t like hyenas and I thought Wild Dogs would be very similar, but they aren’t – they don’t look sneaky and dirty like scavenging hyenas.
Plus, female Wild Dogs don't have genitals that get them confused with males, so you don't need to wonder if they're hermaphrodites as myth has it with hyenas.
Although we didn't hear the Wild Dogs in Kruger, I took a listen to this sound clip of Wild Dogs calling. I was happy to hear that they sound quite similar to normal dogs - although not a melodious sound it beats the idiotic laughter of my least favourite wild animal, the hyena (if you must - the hyena's haunting call).
Now Hyenas are carnivores of the worst variety eating anything from other hyenas to carrion (the decaying flesh of dead animals), bones, vegetable matter and even other animals droppings! Wild Dogs on the other hand prefer to consume their prey as soon as possible after the kill, rarely eating carrion. Wild Dogs are omnivorous according to some, eating grasses, berries, roots and other plant material.
Back in Kruger on Safari - there were several African Wild Dogs lying under some Acacia trees next to the road and about three of them lying just next to the road on the grass.
The rare Wild Dogs were being pretty lazy, so we didn't get to see any action or much movement at all, but we did get up really close (almost breath-smelling close)!
I was amazed at how tame and calm these usually shy carnivores remained as safari-goers moved in close to take photographs and gape at them.
The following day we again encountered some Wild Dogs, this time feeding near the road in the bush after a kill. We could hear the crunching of bones and vaguely make out the shapes of the painted dogs crouched in the lush vegetation of post-flood Kruger Park.
About African Wild Dogs
The spotted dogs or painted dogs as they are also known, are one of Africa’s most endangered mammal species mainly found in eastern and southern parts of Africa. Wild Dogs play the role equivalent to that of wolves in the African savannah ecosystem.
According to good old Wikipedia the Wild Dog's scientific name is derived from the Greek word for "wolf" and the Latin for "painted" resulting in - "Lycaon pictus".
Painted Dogs are usually found in packs of between 5 to 20 individuals, being social creatures that live and hunt in packs. The Wild Dog pack sighted in Kruger on our safari, was around 10 to 15 strong - although several of them were camouflaged under trees, so it was difficult to see clearly.
There are said to be about 17 packs of Wild Dogs in Kruger Park and an estimated 120 individual animals, making Kruger a Wild Dog stronghold. Kruger Park is home to the only "viable South African population of Wild Dogs" according to the Endangered Wildlife Trust.
I feel privileged to have sighted the elusive painted dogs of Kruger Park and was relieved to find the Wild Dogs much more loveable (to me at least), than hyenas!
More on Wild Dogs in Kruger and other wildlife sighted, including leopards in the trees of Kruger.