Very special guests recently visited Kitich Camp in the Matthews Range Forest – wild dogs!
The pack arrived in time for breakfast and attempted to take down a bushbuck, which was in thickets just below Tent 5. Unfortunately, the pack was unsuccessful as they were distracted by someone leaving the tent. Nevertheless, they proceeded to trot directly pass the main deck where guests were having breakfast, giving them an ideal view from above of the moving pack.
The pack of twelve dogs included the alpha male and female, amongst the nine mature members who were also accompanied by several youngsters (judged as being approximately 4-5 months old). They eagerly followed the adults (so young that it could possibly have been on their first outing with the adults hunting) and at all times they were protectively steered towards shielding bushes. Meanwhile, the adults scouted the open area directly in front of us, before disappearing beyond the tree-line on the other side of the glade.
With its open woodland and forest habitat, surrounded by Samburu savannah, The Matthews Range’s Forest is an ideal habitat for African wild dogs to live and hunt in. They can cover about 40 kilometers a day with a home range of approximately 100 to 200 kilometers. Like the cheetah, wild dogs hunt during the day, making it easier to observe them hunting or moving during daylight hours – completely the opposite to most other carnivores who prefer hunting in the cooler hours and during the evening or at night. Still, it was a very rare sight to see due to their status as one of the world’s most endangered mammals. Habitats for wild dogs are decreasing, making the protected Matthews Range forestland truly ideal for them. Owners of Kitich Camp, Stefano, and Liz Cheli, are situated in the heart of the Matthews Range and their staff of dedicated Samburu act as a gateway and guardians of this secretive haven.
On that spectacular morning in camp, the alpha male and female could clearly be seen leading the pack as they skirted the glade, using the raised bank on the far side to their full advantage. After observing the land for a few minutes, the group tightened and hedged the woodlands before setting off again in a hunting formation. The source of food for wild dogs is perfect in the Matthew Range and forestlands, namely bushbuck, reedbuck, impala, and gerenuk.
Wild dogs tend to avoid thick forest but range through dense scrub, woodland, and mountain habitat, which best describes the Matthews Range. The size of the pack seen at Kitich was quite an effective size, large enough to defend themselves from larger carnivores who could steal their food and compete for prey and territory. Lions have been seen around Kitich in the Matthew Range’s forests but not in large pride numbers, and hyenas, who have been known to steal prey from smaller groups of wild dogs, would not have been a treat. The size of the pack seen at Kitich would also be able to defend their prey from leopard, who frequent these forests.
Written by Colleen Hogg – Operations Manager, Kitich Camp. Wild dog images courtesy of Monique Vek.