Wild dogs and pups – a photo essay
by Tara Turkington – 21 June 2012
African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) are highly endangered, with only a few thousand (if that) remaining in the wild.
Also known as "painted wolves", these dogs are highly social animals, living and hunting in packs, and raising litters of pups together.
The Madikwe Game Reserve has become famous for its wild dogs, which were reintroduced here in 1995.
There are currently two African wild dog packs at Madikwe, and one of them has just had a litter of 14 puppies, which are now around eight or nine weeks old. This week, while on a photographic workshop at Jaci's Safari Lodge, I was lucky enough to see the pups at their den – a once-in-a-lifetime sighting.
They are tiny little things with pointy ears, and blotchy fur that at this stage is mostly black and white. While we watched, a male babysitter (most of the pack were off hunting, which they apparently need to do twice a day at present) called the pups from their hole in the red Kalahari sand with chirrupy, bird-like calls. They streamed from their burrow into the wintery morning sun, tumbling over one another as they emerged.
It wasn't long before more adults returned and regurgitated fresh meat for the pups, with one little one grabbing a clump almost as big as himself. At the slightest hint of danger, they all tumbled back over one another back into their burrow, but emerged again when the adults called the all-clear. We witnessed them drinking from their mother, her teats heavy with milk, before leaving them to their day of alternating between sleeping, playing and feeding.