Painters on a prowl

I have often been told, Kruger National Park is the best place to see the African Wild Dog (also known as African Painted Dog or African Hunting Dog). Now that I was finally in Kruger for three days, I directed all my questions to our guide, Bradley.

How often do you see Wild Dogs? I asked. We see them maybe once in a week, he replied. But they have not been spotted in recent times, he added. My heart sank, hearing the last few words. More than the Big 5, this was the endangered species I was longing to see.

On a morning game drive, I decided to take the seat next to Bradley. That move would later prove to be a favourable one. We took a new route that morning which went past another camp called Hamilton Tented Camp. As we drove past the camp and down a slope toward a dry river bed, a swift movement on the right side caught my eye.

Wild Dog! The vehicle had barely come to a stop, and as I whipped out the camera and took a few pictures… Poof! The dog was gone.

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In a hurry | African Wild Dog, Kruger National Park, South Africa

My joy for that brief moment knew no bounds! I was ecstatic seeing an African Wild Dog. The wild dogs are rarer than the leopard, exclaimed Bradley, as he turned the jeep around. Driving ahead, we spotted a congress of baboon who seemed quite relaxed and unaware that one of the finest hunters in the wild was in the midst.

Leaving the baboons, we must have moved barely a few hundred yards, when we saw three wild dogs standing on the safari track. Not sure if they were a shy pack, I took pictures as we slowly made our way towards them.

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Three’s a team | African Wild Dog, Kruger National Park, South Africa

One bold individual stood his ground as we got closer. Urging Bradley to stop at a safe distance, I made a portrait of this fine looking specimen. I must admit, I always thought these dogs to be ugly! Now, I take my words back!

WIld_Dog_SJK8108_1
African Wild Dog, Kruger National Park, South Africa

We were in for more surprises! There were four more individuals in the pack. They had made a kill nearby. One dog had a piece of meat while another made away with a leg piece. Presumably an impala that had been hunted.

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Mouthful | African Wild Dog, Kruger National Park, South Africa

As we were the only vehicle around, the wild dogs got comfortable and one curious dog came sniffing close to my door.

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Too close Eh! | African Wild Dog, Kruger National Park, South Africa

Just when all of us including Bradley were rejoicing one of the best sightings of wild dogs in recent times, we had a a surprise visitor!

The story is for another day! Stay tuned for next week’s post.

All images shot with Nikon D850 + 200-400 VR 

 

Published by

Sameer Jain (Kittu)

Way before I started photography, I heard the song Lose Yourself by Eminem, and the starting line has stuck with me ever since. It goes- “If you had one shot, one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted would you capture it or just let it slip?” This line is a constant reminder and the closest description of what I feel when I’m out on a safari or walking/trekking photographing birds. Fondly known as Kittu, I’ve been a resident of Mudumalai for three decades. I manage and run Forest Hills Farm and Guesthouse; a family run resort near the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. For as long as my memory goes, I have been an ardent lover of wildlife. Growing up on tea estates and Forest Hills, has played an active role in nurturing my love for nature and wildlife. During school holidays at Forest Hills, I made full use of safari and trekking opportunities that came my way. In 2005, I decided to pursue photography with a Canon film SLR and in 2007, I went digital. The love of wildlife has taken me to various national parks both in India (Bandhavgarh, Ranthambore, Tadoba, Kaziranga to name a few) and other esteemed forest reserves such as Masai Mara (Kenya). While I keenly keep a track of birding activity at home (Forest Hills Farm and Guesthouse), one might just bump into me during a safari at my favourite forest reserve i.e. the Bandipur Tiger Reserve.

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