Wild dog update November 2010
By Dewald van Wyk
Wild dogs communicate with each other with a variety of sounds. Often after or during a hunt the pack may split up and they would use a “lost call” in order to find each other again and to regroup. We thought of using this lost call to try and attract them towards the vehicle so that we can get a sighting of them and hopefully deploy new GPS/VHF collars on them later. By playing this wild dog lost call through two horn speakers and an amplifier, the sound can travel several kilometers and hopefully attract wild dogs if there are any in the area. This call would probably be most efficient after a dispersing event or when there is an individual missing out of the pack.
I decided to play the call for about an hour in different areas that I thought the wild dogs may be at or move through and hoped that they might hear the call and come towards the vehicle to investigate. After doing this for several days and without attracting wild dogs but only an inquisitive lone elephant bull, I began to wonder if it would work.
We got a report that the Mashatu guides saw some fresh wild dog tracks one afternoon in the central part of the reserve. So I packed the sound equipment and drove to that area where the tracks were seen. After playing the call for about ten minutes, a hyaena walked towards the speakers and stayed close to them until he lost interest and walked off. About twenty minutes later I saw a few eyes reflecting from the spotlight quite a distance away and wondered if it might be more hyaenas or the wild dogs. To my delight the pack of wild dogs walked closer slowly and finally lied down close to the vehicle.
It was amazing to see them again. Unfortunately the pack only consist of four wild dogs now, the alpha male and female and two of their offspring from 2009. With the last reports of sightings there were still five wild dogs in the pack. Unfortunately there are only four left now.
Cairo and the rest of the pack responding to the lost call.
Luckily I was able to locate them again early the next morning. For some reason they were not as interested in the lost call that I played and ran abut 400 meters past the speakers and kept on moving further away. I located them again on top of a hill and luckily there were a few Mashatu guides in the area to help me follow the wild dogs. After moving quite a distance the wild dogs finally slowed down and started to seek shade where they can rest during the heat of the day.
Later that day we managed to deploy the GPS collar on Cairo (the alpha female) and another VHF collar on the young male. The young male was lucky to survive after being caught in a snare in August this year. He is in a good condition and has healed completely from the deep cut that the wire made around his neck as he struggled to free himself from the snare.
Scar from the snare around the neck.
Fitting the new VHF collar.