Over the past 12 months our camera traps have revealed that we are lucky enough to share our study area with a number of carnivores. So far the carnivore species we have photographed including dwarf mongoose, slender mongoose, banded mongoose, marsh mongoose (I know what you’re thinking – enough mongooses already!), cape clawless otter, small-spotted genet, African civet, honey badger, African wild cat, black-backed jackal, serval, caracal, brown hyena, spotted hyena and leopard. Many of these species we expected to photograph, some others were pleasant surprises. We am thrilled to announce that as of 3 days ago we can now add one of our favourite species to that list: wild dog!
When we checked one of our leopard traps on Wednesday night we noticed that one of the traps had been triggered, but the animal had released itself before we arrived. The traps are designed in this way so that that animals with paws smaller than those of leopard are not captured. It was only when we checked the camera trap that we used to monitor the trap that to our amazement we saw a wild dog triggering the trap! The camera didn’t show if the animal was not caught, or if it was caught but quickly freed itself. We also captured the pack of around 4 individuals on two of our normal camera trap stations shortly before and shortly after they visited the leopard trap.
The species is not known to be resident in the area, and the owner of Lajuma had never recorded them here in the past, so we expect this pack to be dispersing. Wild dogs are individually recognisable from their unique coat patterns, so we have contacted researchers in the region to ask if anyone knows where these animals came from. There are probably less than 5,000 wild dogs remaining in the wild, making them Africa’s most endangered large carnivore. They also have fascinating social lives, hunting together and sharing their kills while helping to raise each other’s pups. Unfortunately many farmers hate wild dogs and the species are heavily persecuted, so now only a few hundred remain in South Africa. Sadly, the few individuals in the photographs below probably constitute about 1% of the remaining population in the country!
Watch this space to find out if they show up again and where they came from!
Wild dog about to spring the leopard trap.
45 seconds later the trap had sprung but the animal was back with the rest of the pack.
Wild dogs passing our camera traps