May 312016
 

Last year, my wife and I had an incredible privilege. We witnessed the moment a massive litter of 17 highly endangered African Wild Dog (Painted Dog) puppies came out of their den for the very first time.

We were in the Lowveld on a family holiday, and got the chance to head out with Grant Beverley for the day. Grant heads up the EWT (Endangered Wildlife Trust) Wild Dog research and monitoring for the Greater Kruger area of South Africa.

We visited two separate packs of the enigmatic “painted wolf”. The first one was situated in the Zandspruit Aero Estate, in the town of Hoedspruit. To see these animals adapting and denning with puppies in a residential eco-estate where people were developing holiday homes was quite something!

We only caught fleeting glimpses of the alpha female of this pack, and decided to head out to the Ngala Private Game Reserve bordering the Orpen gate of the Kruger National Park.

Last year, the alpha female of this pack gave birth to a whopping 17 puppies! They had, at that point, never ventured out of the den. Grant was hoping that the pack would possibly call them out for the first time (he visited this den nearly every day, was in contact with the Ngala guides, and had camera traps installed at all his monitored den sites).

(note: all images shot in this post were captured with a Nikon D3s and Nikkor 500mm f4 VR lens)

 When we arrived, the pack adults were lazing about, and I was able to capture some portraits of them. It was evident that they had recently made a kill, as their faces were covered in fresh blood.

 It looked like we were in for a long wait that would possibly not result in any visual of the pups. Suddenly, one of the adults moved towards the den (seemingly an abandoned warthog burrow).

More of the adults moved towards the den entrance, with some starting to vocalise with yelps and chirps…and then two little faces appeared from the abyss!

Followed by a couple more!

What followed was just one of the most special moments I’ve ever witnessed in the bush – the pack proceeded to regurgitate some of their meat of the day’s kill for the youngsters. It might seem gross to some people, but this is a piece of behaviour few people have had the privilege to witness as intimately as we were doing at that moment…

Here’s a short video clip of what we saw!

We also sat and watched as the pups explored around their den for the first time, how some of the adults haphazardly handled the roughed up the runts of the litter, and how they all eventually weresignaledby the alpha female that it was time to get back to the safety of the den.

I hope that you are not bored by now with these images!

Before it was all over, I did get a chance to capture the pups all lined up at the den entrance for one last glance at the weird people in the Land Rover with the pointy thing that keeps clicking…

It is very rare for a single female to have this many puppies. They survived much longer than anyone could have dreamed, as the pack cared well for them and protected them. In the meantime, the pack has split and regrouped with other dogs many times, so it’s hard to determine exactly how many of the 17 pups have seen their first “birthday”.

The work that Grant and the EWT are doing is immensely important in ensuring the viability and genetic diversity of the South African population of this rare predator. Their territories are vast, and as human encroachment keeps fragmenting the amount of land under dedicated conservation, the pressure on them will mount. Your donations can keep this team focused on monitoring and managing the greater Kruger meta-population with long-term survival and sustainability in mind. Please consider making a donation!

Thank you for viewing and reading!

Morkel Erasmus

 

Subscribe to our FREE Newsletter

 

 

Share on social media:

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
Morkel Erasmus

Morkel Erasmus

Since picking up a DSLR camera for the first time, a little over 3 years ago, Morkel has been invigorated with an unbridled passion for the photographic art form. He has grown at a tremendous pace and put immense energy into the creation of his images. He absolutely loves spending time in the wild places of his native Southern Africa. From a young age he has been visiting legendary wildlife and outdoor locations, including the Kruger Park National Park and the Drakensberg Mountains, with his family. Now that he has found a way to share the natural beauty of his homeland with the rest of the world he is regularly out on photography trips. An Industrial Engineer by profession, and an accomplished artist in genres like music and poetry, Morkel has always enjoyed whatever allows him to express his creativity to the fullest. Photography turned out to be the perfect "marriage" between his engineering brain and artistic soul. "I hope that in some way I can raise awareness through my imagery of the plight of not only our wildlife but also the fragility of the last remaining wilderness areas that they call home.” Morkel was recently honoured for his commitment to his craft by receiving a "Highly Commended" for one of his images in the 2010 BBC Veolia Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. He is based in Mpumalanga, South Africa and even though he prefers going on safari with his family and friends, Morkel also leads the odd photographic safari and has recently begun presenting workshops in post-processing techniques.

Facebook Comments

Leave a Reply

avatar
Michele Jankelow

Wonderful images! Thank you!

Maria Manuela Lopes

Wonderful thanks for sharing.

wpDiscuz

Top-Viewed Posts Last 30 Days

  1. Karma Strikes Again: Trophy Hunter Killed by Elephant [1113 Views]
  2. Rare footage helps explain what Narwhals use their tusks for [1045 Views]
  3. POLL: Should the Grizzly Bear be removed from the Endangered Species List? [1005 Views]
  4. POLL: Should all circuses with wild animals be closed down? [955 Views]
  5. ‘Kill them, kill them, kill them’: the volunteer army plotting to wipe out Britain’s grey squirrels [808 Views]
  6. 10 of the Most Endangered Species on Earth [798 Views]
  7. $10,000 reward offered to find killer of famous Yellowstone white wolf [694 Views]
  8. Gray Squirrels versus Red Squirrels – The Facts [669 Views]
  9. POLL: Should Trump be allowed to destroy the Endangered Species Act [644 Views]
  10. Elephants Can’t Wait to Meet New Rescued Baby at Sanctuary [614 Views]

Top-Viewed Posts Last 12 Months

  1. White Killer Whale Adult Spotted for First Time in Wild [42098 Views]
  2. POLL: Should there be a worldwide ban on fur farms? [16884 Views]
  3. POLL: Should fur farming be banned in the European Union? [12092 Views]
  4. POLL: Should Congress disband Wildlife “Killing” Services? [11134 Views]
  5. POLL: Should driven grouse-shooting be banned? [8670 Views]
  6. POLL: Should grouse shooting on highland estates be banned? [8256 Views]
  7. POLL: Should black bears be killed for Royal Guards’ fur caps? [8075 Views]
  8. POLL: Should China’s dog meat festival be banned? [7443 Views]
  9. POLL: Should trophy and big game hunting be banned? [5416 Views]
  10. POLL: Should the killing of giraffes be outlawed? [4675 Views]