Wild Dog puppy surprise

22nd June 2019
The sun had set but it was still light. That evening light of purple and orange hues, were perfectly reflected in the water of the pan, the sunset colours broken only by the reflected shapes of 5 elephant bulls drinking. They stood peacefully slowly sucking up litres of water at a time and carefully depositing them deep into their mouths, careful not to spill any of this liquid gold. Some elephants are having to dig in the dry sandy riverbeds for water, these guys have it easy, for now. The dry season has only just started, with at least another 5 months to go before the rains. Keeping the peace and reflecting the mood around the pan, as one, the bulls moved off almost without any sound, even their huge footsteps treading silently on mother earth. In the fading light I wanted to check on the vultures from the morning. The tree skeletons stood dark and proud against the now maroon sky, but they were bare. Not a vulture to be seen. Obviously that huge carcass I had imagined was just that…
At dawn I went to check on the badger hole. A few buffalo had been through and churned up the sand around the bush, but otherwise there was no sign. Taking my chances I went into the thicket. It was fairly open inside with lots of leaf litter. There were several holes too, but all had spider webs. So they hadn’t been used recently. There was no evidence of anything. I was now seriously beginning to question my tracking skills.

It was still early when I arrived at the wild dog den. Adults lay around in the sun warming themselves. They all looked lean. Definitely hadn’t hunted this morning. It was some time later that one stirred. Got up shaking her head, that typical sound of huge flapping ears. She greeted another. They were both up, walking shoulder to shoulder with their heads low they moved past the mopane trees to the light red sandy mound. They were whimpering. There was more movement in the woodland. More dogs, their heads held low, began to approach. Digging at the entrance of the sandy mound one of the dogs was whimpering frantically and carried on digging. Then they erupted, tiny puppies! Not even 3 weeks old. The adults were all over them. All wanting to ‘eat’ the cutest little things. Their coats are still just black and white, the brown will start appearing soon. Puppies were being picked up, nuzzled, pushed around. Everyone wanting to meet and greet them. It was frantic for a few minutes. Then mom arrived and the puppies dropped into the burrow. No doubt milkies on offer. The adults resumed their places in the sun…

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