“As a young boy, I would wake to the sound of wild dogs yapping as they ran past our manyatta in the early hours – some mornings I’m not sure if the noises were real or just a dream…”I never tired of hearing Joseph, Kicheche Mara Camp’s senior guide, recounting stories of his childhood. Every time I heard his lament that hunting dogs had not been seen in the northern part of the Greater Masai Mara since 1994, the dog’s mythical status was reinforced in my mind.
In 2009 I was the manager of Kicheche Mara Camp. One afternoon, we heard a report that wild dogs had been sighted on the Olchorro plains in front of Killeleoni Escarpment. I immediately dropped what I was doing and Joseph and I jumped in a vehicle and began the search. With senses heightened, mottled rocks, speckled bush and skittish dik-diks were all mistaken for various canine anatomies but as we entered a large clearing the view that greeted us was clear and unequivocal.
A flash of white from his tail was the first we saw of the alpha male as he ran in front of our vehicle in the direction of a croton thicket. Just as we were ruefully thinking he would disappear into the bush, he stopped and upon seeing the rest of the pack enter the clearing he ambled back towards us. He was warmly greeted by the dominant female and in the next ten minutes we counted a total of sixteen wild dogs, their unfeasibly large ears standing to attention and their wet noses reflecting the last of the day’s sunlight as they interacted less than 50 meters from our vehicle.
Sightings like this are still rare in the Mara but if you head north to Kenya’s Laikipia Plateau there is a private concession, known as Sosian Ranch where the wild dog sightings are exceptional. In conjunction with John Wright, a professional wildlife photographer who shares my passion for wild dogs, Steppes Discovery’s first Wild Dog Photographic safari has just returned and successfully photographed Sosian’s dogs on five occasions.
This was John’s comment when I spoke to him in Nairobi: “We had three sessions with a pack of 28 dogs. On two occasions we were with the dogs for over 2 hours each with many dogs only 5 metres away from our vehicle. The first of these was while they were on a kill…we got some amazing photographs and the most incredible memories of Africa’s most enigmatic predator.”
I spoke to the managers of Sosian Lodge last week and they tell me the dogs are now denning within sight of the lodge.