The Safari Advisor
 
Safari, So Good: Botswana's Wild Dogs (Continued)
 
Indeed, when the pack finished and departed, we noticed hyenas skulking in the heavy dusk towards the kill spot. Sage moved our vehicle and from a short distance, we soon could hear the crunching of bones as the scavengers went to work.

At about 5 pm of the following evening's game ride, with the sun still fairly strong, we discovered a second pack of four dogs lying helter-skelter in the thick grass under several trees. Other than occasionally lifting their heads to peer curiously at us intruders, the dogs laid still, conserving energy for the upcoming hunt. Finally, thirty minutes later, the alpha female arose, nuzzled each pack member onto its feet, and then led the pack off at speed.

Sage was unable to track the smaller pack and at about 6:00, he stopped for our evening tea. As we stretched our legs and enjoyed the spectacular African sunset, with breathtakingly colorful displays both in the western and eastern (from reflection) skies, a herd of impala tore across the plain about 200 yards from us. Some five minutes later we saw the pack of seven dogs from the previous evening appear out of heavy grass.

The pack fanned out and, surprisingly, moved deliberately and inexorably straight for us. Someone mentioned that in recorded history, there were no confirmed reports of wild dogs attacking humans. I couldn't help remembering Bill Murray's line from "Caddyshack" and thought, "At least we've got that going for us." Sage must have had similar thoughts, because, as the lead dog got to within 15-20 feet of us, he suggested, "They are just curious about us, but you may want to consider climbing into the car."

Just then the group edged around us and, as it did so, a noise in the grass behind them, probably caused by a Springhare (rabbit), prompted the pack to yelp and scatter. The tension broke, we laughed, a bit nervously really, and Sage explained that dogs, when startled, run first and investigate later.
 
At dinner that night, Sandibe's visitors and staff were abuzz over the wild dog sightings. The manager of the camp marveled, "You just don't understand. We go very, very long periods without seeing a pack. If people told me they'd seen two packs and a kill in the space of two days, I would have a hard time believing it. Even when we encounter a pack, we don't expect to see them the following day because they move so quickly and cover vast amounts of territory. Consider yourselves extremely lucky."

In fact, we knew we were fortunate. Once, African wild dogs numbered in the hundreds of thousands and were common in virtually every environment in southern Africa except rain forests and deserts. But human encroachment has drastically reduced their range and their numbers. They have been widely regarded as pests; consequently, they've been poisoned, shot, and trapped in many areas. Perhaps their most serious threat, though, is introduced diseases. Burgeoning human populations have brought the African wild dogs into frequent contact with domestic dogs, many of which carry canine distemper, parvovirus and rabies. These diseases are ravaging the wild packs.

That final night at Sandibe we counted our lucky stars. And under the pitch Botswanan sky, with the Southern Cross and the Milky Way ablaze, it added up to immeasurable good fortune.
 
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