Okavango Machaba: Hyenas after Wild Dogs after Lions

Andrew’s News from Okavango Machaba Reserve:

We were told yesterday that a Wild Dog den had been discovered and we were anxious to reach the spot before sunrise. We did so, and after searching the area thoroughly we found nothing. Nothing at all!

We headed back to the lions that we found yesterday, and I don’t have to list all the game that saw on the way there – elephants, impala, kudu, lechwe, zebras, giraffe … the usual general game in this wonderful area and of course, fabulous birds as well.

Back at the elephant carcass, one lion was lying down, having eaten so much that he simply could not move. The other, unbelievably, was eating again. His abdomen protruded so much that we wondered where that food could possible go. But the morning light was simply beautiful and we photographed both lions in that glorious light.

Then we looked up – and there were seven Wild Dogs approaching tentatively. They had probably picked up the scent of the carcass, and came to see what opportunities presented themselves. They watched carefully to see if there was any reaction from the lions, and came within about twenty meters of the feeding lion. There they lost their nerve and didn’t dare to venture any closer.

We waited for a few minutes to see if the dogs would pluck up some more courage. Everything seemed to stop for a short while – even the vultures in the trees, waiting for their turn at the carcass, watched the dogs.

We pulled closer to the dogs, and to our amazement we saw that they were being followed by six hyenas. Lions, Wild Dogs and hyenas all in one shot!

Well, we thought, something is going to happen here … but the dogs hung around for a few more minutes and then trotted off.

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We followed them, and spent the next ninety minutes with them as they trotted through the bush and then onto a huge flood plain. There were three or four herds of lechwe on the plain, and the dogs immediately gave chase. Lechwe scattered in all directions, dashing back and forth, up and down,

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– with the dogs in hot pursuit. They didn’t manage a catch, but we captured some amazing images of the non-stop, exciting, adrenalin-filled action.

Finally it was time for our morning coffee stop, and heard that another vehicle had managed to locate the exact whereabouts of the Wild Dog den. We headed there directly, and to our delight, the alpha female was lying outside the den, suckling six of the cutest tiny pups – they were not more than two weeks old.

We spent about thirty minutes photographing the pups as they fought for a position to suckle, in between playing and falling around clumsily before deciding to suckle again.

When the female had had enough, she stood up, and the pups disappeared into the den, and we returned to the Lodge.

We started the afternoon at the hyena den, where a number of the adults were lying around in the afternoon sun. Then off to the Wild Dog Den, where only the alpha female was visible. Shortly after our arrival she looked up expectantly and disappeared into the bush.

We went to investigate the lion carcass, where even more vultures perched on the surrounding trees, and the lions lying with their impossibly distended bellies, and no sign of the hyenas.

As evening approached, first the one, and then the other lion got up and went to the waters edge for a drink.

After our really full day, we took our last images of the lions before heading back to the Lodge for dinner.

And now that we know precisely where the Wild Dog den is, we plan to start there in the morning …