Jan 072018
 

While exploring the west end of Chobe National Park, we lucked into a pack of African wild dogs, aka painted dogs in Zimbabwe, the name I much prefer.

I’d love to have the job of painting them! Does anyone know how one gets that job?

African painted dog, Chobe National Park, Botswana

Pretty painted dog

Toward the end of a delightful day of wildlife viewing, we crept along a sand track, enjoying a group of zebras. We didn’t pay much attention to a safari vehicle that was stopped on a parallel track, but then the driver hollered and waved at us. My first thought was that he needed help. After some hollering and huh?-ing, we understood they’d just seen some wild dogs, and this friendly fellow was eager to share that news so we might go see them.

He appeared to be a guide/driver, and his vehicle appeared to be full of lodge staff rather than guests. I think he was going through withdrawal, seeing something so special and not having guests with whom he could share it.

As I’ve said over and over here, part of the fun of wildlife viewing for us is discovering the animals ourselves, so I don’t love being guided to game, but I wouldn’t want to miss this, either. I took the information pretty well, due, in part, to the fact that we were the only two vehicles on the scene.

At first, the pack of nine painted dogs were some distance from the track, moving toward a herd of zebras. Some crouched down as if hiding while scoping the scene, or maybe getting ready to pounce; although, there wasn’t anything close enough to pounce on, if you ask me.

African wild dog pack, Chobe National Park, Botswana

All nine dogs in the pack are here. Can you see them?

I scanned the zebras to see if there were any vulnerable babies in the group. Then about eight zebras peeled off from the back of the herbivore group and walked straight toward the dogs. One lagging zebra (left in the image below) trotted to catch up with his brave pals and to add his striped skin to the defensive team.

Zebras confront African wild dogs, Chobe National Park, Botswana

The zebras were having none of the wild dogs’ shenanigans

By golly, the dogs backed off.

That surprised me. The whole thing: that some zebras would act so deliberately, and that such action would deter a pack of dogs; there were more dogs to play offense than there were zebras playing defense. Surely the pack could get around the defensive zebras to reach the rest of the herd. But the dogs gave it up, left the zebras, and headed our way.

Next, the painted pooches set their sights on a lake where a dead elephant sat half-buried in mud and water and a couple of live hippos were hanging out.

African wild dogs consider dead elephant and hippo, Chobe National Park, Botswana

Psst . . . how long can an elephant hold its breath?
Do you think we can take a hippo?

The wild dogs spent some time puzzling out the elephant and deciding it wasn’t an option. Then they turned to one of the hippos, which had turned its attention to them. The second hippo couldn’t be bothered; it stayed submerged, mostly facing away from the dogs.

The dogs paced back and forth, checking out angles and distance, consulting one another.

The hippo roared and splashed, “You want a piece of me? Come and get it!”

African wild dog vs hippo, Chobe National Park, Botswana

African wild dog vs hippo

Really, the dogs didn’t want a piece of that hippo, but they sure gave it a good long look, which gave us a good long look.

Pretty painted dog, Chobe National Park, Botswana

Prettiest girl in the pack–the one with the white on her shoulders and a very muddy hind leg

When they finally gave up, they trotted up toward our truck, around it, and off into the wilderness on the other side. Not one of them expressed any interest in us or the safari vehicle. We watched until the dogs were a fair distance away again.

As we drove away, we passed a vehicle headed to where we had just been. How lucky we were to be there at just the right time. I hope that other vehicle lucked into something cool of its own.