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Tales from the Serengeti - Episode 15: "Wild Dogs"

Posted June 17th 2013 by: Bob House

Today, Monday, June 17, Brad and I succeeded in becoming the first to film the African Wild Dog in the Serengeti since its reintroduction to the park. It wasn't an easy task. We left the house at 6 a.m. well before sunrise. On the way we came across two female lions and one male lion hunting for their morning breakfast. We watched them stalk their prey for a short time but after several unsuccessful attempts on their part to catch their morning breakfast we had to move on to find the Wild Dogs.

But before we reached our destination we stopped again when we came across three hyenas enjoying the remains of their morning kill, a young impala. We watched and filmed as the hyenas used their strong jaws to break bones and tear the meat from the carcass. As we filmed this we were treated to a beautiful sunrise and the appearance of a couple of hot air balloons floating across the horizon. Once again we moved on.

Our two trackers led us to the spot we would begin our search for the Wild Dogs. It was one of the more remote areas of the park. What lay ahead would prove to be one of our more arduous adventures (much more difficult for some than others). We began our ascent to the top of what our trackers called a hill but Brad and I called a small mountain. It was steep and extremely rocky. I was very grateful that I have been running two to three miles four or five times a week for the last year. It took us almost an hour of stumbling on loose rocks and trying to avoid small bushes with thorns the size of 12d nails and just as tough. But at last we were just below the peak. Ernest, one of our guides, and I were first to reach the site. Brad and Thomas, our other guide, were still climbing. They had fallen about 100 yards behind us. It was then Ernest and I caught sight of two huge bat-like ears that appeared directly above us. Then the full face of a Wild Dog was looking down on us. It gave a quick snarl and disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. Then came more snarling and a couple quick sightings of more Wild Dogs with their fangs bared and their bat-like ears pointing upward. But they vanished into the brush as quickly as they had appeared. Ernest and I yelled to Brad but by the time he reached us he'd missed them.

We climbed the last few feet and began following along the edge of the mountain. We saw the pack of Wild Dogs off in the distance one more time but they vanished out of sight too fast for us to capture on film. Other than wildebeests and zebras running around us, we saw nothing else until four game wardens came upon us. They jokingly asked our guides if Brad was a poacher. They talked with the trackers and told them that they had seen the pack head down the hill. We had just gone through this ordeal for nothing. The descent wasn't much easier than the ascent and took nearly as long. But we made it and with the expert help of Ernest and Thomas and their trusty GPS system we found the Land Cruiser. Lazaro told us the game wardens we'd run into on top of the mountain had stopped by and asked to see our papers. Lazaro said he showed them our permits and then they went on their way.

The trackers then led us to an open plain filled with thousands of wildebeests and zebras. It didn't take them long to locate the pack of eight Wild Dogs. For the next several hours we followed and filmed them. We kept hoping they would go in for a kill but it became apparent that they really weren't hungry. Instead they seemed more interested in keeping their distance from us all the while never really taking their eyes off us. Our journey had been successful and we were rewarded with plenty of film showing the Wild Dogs in the Serengeti. It is the first professional film of the pack since they were reintroduced to the park. It was a great day!

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