The wilderness remains to hold a sense of mystery – its dynamics, communication methods and survival techniques continue to captivate our curiosity. Safari operators, conservationists, guides and wildlife enthusiasts are all dedicated to understanding the bush, to a larger or lesser degree. We observe, research and share our collected wisdom in order to gain a richer perspective into the intricate and mysterious wild web of life.
Those who have been bitten by the Africa nature bug have little to no chance of disconnecting themselves from its influence. The symptoms of the bug are mutually beneficial to both humans and the environment – we fulfil our need to reconnect to nature and our roots, and in turn, ensure the protection of these spaces.
One of the programmes in Botswana which focuses on the movement of wildlife in order to understand their behaviour, ecology and dispersal patterns, is the BPCT (Botswana Predator Conservation Program). Working closely with safari operators, such as Mogotlho Khwai River, the organisation is able to keep a close eye on the activity and dynamics of carnivores in the area. Located on the Mababe concession, the area has a prolific wild dog population with three of the eight to 10 packs followed by the predator conservation program frequenting the waterholes around Mogotlho, with the Khwai River as a year round water source. The goal of the conservation trust is to have at least one dog collared in each pack to allow them to be monitored and located on a regular basis. The Mogotlho guides then send reports of sightings to the research team including location, number of individuals, the presence of collars along with pictures. Such communication enables conservation stories to succeed, with all those in the area part of the solution.
The Okavango Delta and its surrounds represents one of the strongholds for endangered carnivores in southern Africa. It is imperative for species survival to collect data, providing insight and allowing for the distribution of correct information to the community. This type of conservation education saves many lives, protecting our wild spaces for years to come. Its aim is:
To build capacity among local Batswana, through training and mentoring, to ensure there are skilled conservationists and wildlife custodians for the future.” (Predator Conservation Trust).
Mogotlho, Khwai River lodge is blessed with the presence of the endangered wild dog. As the dogs are highly social and hold stable territories, they return to their known landscape around the concession, allowing guides and guests to observe their ways. As lodge manager Brendon says, “Wild Dogs do not care much for us, and are happy to go about their business in our company. In fact, these critters are quite inquisitive, often approaching the vehicle to investigate – allowing for some amazing photo opportunities!”
Being pack animals, they move and hunt in groups from 10 up to 40 dogs strong. Highly intelligent with superior means of communication, they have an 80% success rate when hunting, each dog fully aware of its role in the process. Confident and opportunistic predators, they hunt medium sized antelope, such as impala and kudu. With survival of their species in mind, they prioritise the cubs over other dominant pack members when feeding. Denning season provides a unique opportunity for guests to observe their tight family bonds, and how the whole pack interacts – especially with their young.
Bold in colour and character, each dog has unique patterns on its coat allowing for researchers to identify individuals and monitor their role within the pack. Various dogs have been known to engage in specific ‘jobs’ depending on situations and circumstances – whether it be hunter, babysitter, nurse or guard – each position a necessity for survival. It is fascinating to simply sit and observe these animals, rising with the sun to find them on an early morning game drive. Watching their large rounded ears swivel in response to their acute hearing, witnessing play amongst their young as well as how they communicate on a hunt all gift insight to these endangered and intelligent beings.
Book your seat in the front row of safari and join the Mogotlho team in learning more about this fascinating species. Conservation education is pivotal to their survival, with an estimated 6 600 left – you could play the role of spreading awareness long after the safari has ended.