THE savannah is full of different wild animals which live side by side while performing some fabulous actions which from their point of view are not for display but are essentials for their own existence.
Some wild animals such as wildebeest, zebra and Thomson’s gazelle travel to a long distant location in search for greener pasture, some use their ability to run and attack while join hands to form a killing squad that terrorise others in the savannah.
In the middle of African savannah, lions hunt and kill with power through suffocation most of their prey but African wild dogs hunt and kill their prey in a ferocious manner. The killing of a prey by African wild dogs is very painful because it involves chopping off different size portions of meat from a live animal which may be going into a slow shocking death.
Just like other dwellers of the savannah, African wild dogs start their day by a highly respected morning ritualised greeting which involves sniffing and leaking each other while waving their tails and making birdlike sound called twitter.
Different studies indicate that after the ritualised greeting the dominant male will make powerful hoo-like sound capable of reaching about four kilometres away which also ignite the quiet hunting activity. As the search for a meal get underway subordinate male dogs assume the leading role of going through the savannah land from one bush to another searching for a prey. As the hunting activity is underway, African hunting dogs apply different strategies according to age, body size and health status of the prey.
While attacking a herd of wildebeests, African hunting dogs apply an ambush which send all animals into different directions in a panic as everyone tries to serve own life.
On the other side the panic creates an opening for African hunting dogs which allows them to isolate the vulnerable member such as sick, female, immature or older male who may be chased for about two kilometres before they are caught.
Most of the time the African hunting dogs living in a group called pack may split into two smaller packs which attack from two opposing directions and force their prey to assemble in a delicate position. While in a frustration, these animals become prone for attacks from any direction but if this technique fails, the African hunting dogs will not give up easily; they will try the isolation trick and chase the prey until it’s captured.
Strong antelopes such as Kudu and Gerenuk who own and defend their territory are attacked from all directions with all possible escaping routes being blocked. This is done by positioning experienced dogs which are prepared to capture any prey on sight and capable of calling others for more assistance.
Different researches indicate that at this stage coward and lazy dogs are not encouraged to take part because courageous hunters will quickly take up their position into a strategic location. By doing this, always African hunting dogs rush into a sight to help their colleague which is calling them for a prey captured.
While weighing between 20 and 25 kilogrammes, a lonely African hunting dog is completely outsmarted by single wildebeest which weigh between 180 and 250 kilogrammes. With this in their minds, African hunting dogs join hands to form a killing squad that is capable to overpower a strong prey like zebra and eland very easily. Scientists say this is done while other dogs stand firmly to defend their prey against other parks or rival animals such as spotted hyenas.
It is said that when others fail to hear a call from their fellow, the dog which is on target may put up courage and force its prey to a trapping passions such as on river banks or swampy area. While the animal may think it is now safe, the dog will go back to seek assistance from other African hunting dogs which will come and surround the water body as long as it takes to take down their prey.
Sometime in national parks such as Ruaha where there are small islands in the middle of Ruaha river, antelopes which come under attack from African hunting dogs may go and sick refugee on islets. According to different studies sometime by stay too long in one of these islets antelopes such as waterbucks are attacked because some courageous dogs may swim and force their prey to go ashore where a fresh chase is launched.
At this stage from one point to another, different members of the whole pack exchange a leading role after every five kilometers. Not all preys are killed after as short distance, some like Thomson’s gazelle who are more agile force African hunting dogs to increase their speed to 66 kilometres per hour to a point where such preys are exhausted and slow their running speed.
Once African hunting dogs get closer to their prey to decapitate it, they will ferociously start to chop off primal cuts from soft parts of hind legs and abdomen of a live but frightened and exhausted antelope until the animal is unable to move. Whether it likes it or not, due to loss of blood and muscle failure the antelope will be forced to lie down in a position which makes it prone for attacks and death. In cruel manner African hunting dogs will spend two to five minutes to force a medium sized antelope to the ground.
Scientists say they will need more than half an hour to bring down calves of buffalo and giraffe, adult Zebra and Wildebeest which most of the time will try to defend themselves. Adult zebra and wildebeest are known of using powerful kicks to defend themselves but because of loss of energy without mercy these large ruminants also fall victim of these super predators of savannah.
Unlike lions in a pride which fight and scramble after a kill or hyenas who eat noisily and chaotically, African hunting dogs are very social animals who allow young members to eat first followed by subordinate members of the pack.
Then most senior members are allowed to eat but this culture enables the weaker to survive as stronger members are forced to go into hunting when the food is not enough for that day. The common English name for African hunting dogs is African wild dogs but around Serengeti national park the Wajita people call them Omusege while Hehe people who live near Ruaha national park use Ligwami as Wabena use Liduma, Wanyaturu use Mbughi, Wasukuma use Mhuge.
Wanyiha use inpumpi but because of the cruel hunting techniques used by African wild dogs, the Chagga people who live under the shade of mount Kilimanjaro call them Kitekya warumu meaning the devil’s dog. Scientists call them Lycaon pictus and there are five different sub species still roaming in the jungles of Africa south of Sahara.
These are South African wild dogs species which are available from Mozambique to South Africa, West African wild dog, Chadian wild dog, Somali wild dog and the East African.
The East African species forms the largest population in the world with national parks such as Serengeti, Tarangire, Mikumi and Ruaha together with Selous game reserve having the largest contingent.
The Africana hunting dogs have earned a very bad reputation as cruel butchers but on the other side, they have been created, equipped and trained by nature to play an important role of balancing the number of ruminants dwelling in the savannah.