4:30 am. My alarm goes off. I reach for it and press snooze. An unrelenting tap tap tap on my shoulder. A small face, with a cascade of hair two centimetres from mine. “Aren’t we going on a drive?”. I pull myself out of a deep slumber and smile at my littlest. “Ok. Give me a second”. I stumble out of bed and reach for my shoes – automatically doing the triple “s” test., no scorpions, spiders or snakes.
A bright flash of light catches my attention. “What was that?” Hubby, who for a change is half awake replies, “Probably just the duiker”. At that point we had two pairs of duiker on either side of the house and they often set off the light.
The motion sensor light triggers again and I crawl over the single bed next to the window and look out. Wild dog….. Wait what?!
“There’s a wild dog in our garden!”
Hubby thinks I’ve lost the plot entirely, but we hurry down the stairs as quietly as we can with Zaza hot on our heels. There it is! We have a wild dog hunting a Nyala in our front garden.
Let’s rewind a bit. We don’t have a pack of wild dogs living on Moditlo Estate. They have visited a couple of times and before we moved into Moditlo, there was a wild dog kill on our deck. Sometimes, they’re seen on the main road between Acornhoek and Hoedspruit or close to the army base.
About a year ago we had the pack on the shores of one of our dams and we went to see them. They are absolutely magnificent.
More recently the pack visited and one of the females was injured and stayed behind. A couple of nights in a row I heard a strange whining noise. It woke me from my sleep and I tried to find the source with my torch. Peering out of windows in the dead black of the bushveld with a torch is not the most effective investigative technique, but I wasn’t going to venture outside in the night. We met up with some of our neighbours from across the river on a night drive and they had also heard the noises. We speculated that it might be the lone wild dog. Zaza and I had seen her limping up one of the main roads on one of our 6am “times table trips”. Somewhere between seven times five and four times eight, she suddenly appeared ahead of us.
My love for wild dogs started when I was in primary school (several decades back!). At that point they were almost extinct and I always worried that they would be once I grew up. Now I had an actual wild dog hunting in my own garden. It was a bit of a double-edged sword though because she was hunting one of our female nyala. Not an ideal situation when you have your favourite predator prey on one of your nyala children.
The nyala was beside herself with fear. She was heavily pregnant and exhausted. Wild dogs chase their prey relentlessly for hours. I was surprised because the nyala was much bigger than the wild dog – you can see the Nyala headbutt the wild dog towards the end of the video where she has her cornered. Was she targeted because of her pregnancy?
The nyala had jumped onto the deck and knocked her head so hard on the window that she had left a bloody mark on the glass. She looked so frantic, that if she could have, she would probably have overcome her fear of humans, opened the lodge door, and come inside. Luckily for the nyala and sadly for the wild dog, our presence at the window scared the predator off.
We managed to piece the happenings together from our security cameras and saw that the nyala had been under attack for quite some time. She had a bite mark on her side and gave birth two days later.
Her calf was minute and timid, but turned out to be a survivor like its Mommy.
The lone wild dog is still spotted frequently on Moditlo. I long for the day when she is joined by a pack and we have a litter of pups to feast our eyes on.