Situated in the vast Waterberg region of Southern Africa lies the undeniably stunning 23,000 hectare of complete and utter privacy that is Leobo Private Game Reserve. This wonderfully small and exclusive camp is perfect for families that want to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life at home. Heralded as the dream escape, especially for children who tend to bury their heads in their phones, Leobo will make sure this is a thing of the past, you can’t not want to look up and explore the sights and sounds surrounding them.
Activities abound from morning and evening game drives, quad biking and even paint balling from helicopters! How about that for awesome?! There are regular excursions to the nearby ‘big 5’ game reserve to see the top predators – Leobo has the usual plains games, but no predators… Although, having said that, we may have some news… a new arrival may have slightly rocked the boat…
Recently a pack of 18 wild dog have appeared and made a den nearby and do not seem to be moving. This is great news! The Wild Dog, or painted dog are an incredibly rare species throughout Sub-Saharan Africa and to hear about this arrival is fantastic. A few of the dogs have been collared so that the experts can monitor their movements and generally track their whereabouts to study this fascinating breed.
The Wild Dog as a breed, has to be one of the most fascinating and interesting predators within African wildlife. They definitely have huge fans in our office, both Rose and Sophie love the Wild Dog and it probably has something to do with how they operate within their pack.
On their own, the Wild Dog is not threatening, but when confronted by a pack of them, the story can be quite different. The Wild Dog pack has a structured social order compared to other carnivores. Their packs are led by an alpha male and alpha female with the rest of the pack members playing a more subordinate role. Avoiding areas with dense hyena and lion populations they tend to travel vast distances, so with Leobo having few of these competing predators, they have picked a perfect location. Adopting a steady trot, the dogs are able to cover huge distances – some packs have been known to travel over 50km in a single day.
Masters of the collective hunting approach, they tend to start hunts at the beginning of the day, twilight and sometimes during the full moon. They choose to hunt before or after the heat of the sun saps all their energy, it is cooler and there pray is more active. To get the pack in the mood for a hunt, each pack member greets one another, sniffing, licking, wagging their tails and chirruping to one another – good communication is key to maintaining a healthy relationship – even in dogs!
Once on the hunt, they fan out through the bush in search of their prey (usually impala or something similar). Singling out a vulnerable individual, the team of wild dog begin the process of hunting. One of the beta dogs will have singled out the prey, once this has been done the alpha male tends to take over. This is where the serious test for stamina begins for both prey and dog. The Wild Dog pride themselves on seriously high stamina when it comes to hunting – they can maintain a 40km/h pace for well over 5km, interspersed with short faster bursts of speed. Usually, the rest of the team comes into play and helps bring down their prey, which is very quick and quite ruthless. Often or not some people do not wish to witness this as it can be incredibly brutal. Having nipped at its pray as it runs, the dogs literally run them to exhaustion.
Subordinate females will support the other females in the pack that will be back at the den nursing. Filling themselves up with food, they will return to the den where they will regurgitate food for both mother and pups.
Due to their hunting techniques, the wild dog has often been seen as quite horrific with the end result not being quite as pretty and quick as you would hope for the victim. Their team work and pack ethic are completely fantastic and as a breed, like any dog, they are incredibly enjoyable to watch. They play and support one another as a family, taking care of ill, sick or injured members and even after the brutal hunting scenes, they make sure everyone is fed equally and if no one is fed, the hunt will continue until all are satisfied.
The fact a pride of 18 has arrived at Leobo is incredibly special. The Wild Dog, or Painted dog (due to its mismatch coloured coat) have become endangered due to human settlements and the introduction of livestock farming – introducing easy prey such as cattle into the Wild Dogs habitat has meant both human and dogs have since suffered. The easy prey that is cattle, goats and sheep has meant the dogs take advantage which in turn means humans need to get rid of the animal that is taking away their produce. Thus, meaning the decline of this fantastic species.
The long term effect of this does mean the rest of the ecosystem suffers, if you remove one animal, it will mean another one misses out. This is why it is vital to not only support and teach people who live locally about the Wild Dog but to also work alongside them therefore enabling people to work alongside nature and to protect the Wild Dog – A visit to Leobo is surely a must to see such a wonderful species settle in such a stunning location.