“The fact that wild dogs are not known to be climbers of any kind makes this sighting totally improbable,” MalaMala head guide Gareth van Rooyen told Latest Sightings.
Their paws were not made for what we’re seeing here! It’s astonishing in and of itself that the dogs didn’t slip or fall.”
This specific pack of 21 painted dogs had been spotted on the reserve several times in the previous week. Rangers saw the dogs on the prowl on the afternoon of February 22nd, most likely looking for a meal.
Painted dogs are skilled hunters who use their stamina and intellect to track down their prey. They may hunt multiple times in a single day, especially if there are many mouths to feed.
The dogs came across the klipspringers and, using a technique that’s not uncommon for the predators, they cornered the antelope in the hopes of securing a meal. Painted dogs have been documented utilising water sources or fences as cut-off points to strategically ‘herd’ prey species into vulnerable situations. So pushing the klipspringers to the brink and surrounding them is a tactic straight out of the painted dog playbook.
“It was mostly the young wild dogs who were trying to get to the klipspringers,” van Rooyen explained. It’s possible that the adults could already see that the pursuit was more effort than it’s worth.
With the antelope perched precariously near to the edge of a large boulder, the pups clambered to the top of the big rock and edged their way closer. According to van Rooyen, this is not the first time rangers on MalaMala have witnessed klipspringers come under siege by a pack of wild dogs and it’s possible that the antelope have had to initiate a similar escape strategy in the past.
“As daunting it may be having these predators in their habitat, they [the klipspringers] were designed by Mother Nature to live in rocky outcrops. Their hooves are very pointy, allowing them to be very nimble and agile on rocks such as these. And living in habitats like these usually assists in avoiding the bigger predators,” van Rooyen points out.
As the guides watched with bated breath, the antelope held their position and the dogs eventually abandoned the hunt, instead moving on to more common prey: an impala.
This article was first published by Earth Touch Network on 25 February 2022. Lead Image: Mathias Appel, Flickr.
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