Field updates: Botswana, summer 2023

Written by Leigh West

Photo credit: Mara Zali

African wild dogs are very social animals, living in groups called packs. Wild dog packs have a dominant male and female, and it is this dominant pair that breeds each year to produce litters of pups. Packs of wild dogs are very cooperative, hunting and raising their young together. Two of the wild dogs that the Abrahms Lab collared this summer, Fossey and Cloud, belong to newly formed packs with a very interesting backstory.

The dominant male of Marula pack, Sepupa, was killed last summer. This led the pack’s dominant female to leave her home range, bringing all of her offspring with her. Some of the males in this group decided to travel south, where they encountered a neighboring pack called Aqua. Upon meeting, the Marula males kicked all of the Aqua males out of their pack, taking their place. By doing this they created a new social group, which we named Metsi pack. (Metsi means ‘water’ in Setswana, the local language at our field site!) One of the female wild dogs we collared this season, Fossey, belongs to Metsi pack.

Photo credit: Leigh West

After this happened, the ousted Aqua males traveled further south towards the Botswana Predator Conservation field camp, where they ran into (yet another!) neighboring pack called Maui. Several females from Maui decided to leave their pack and join the Aqua males, and another new group was formed – Marine pack. Cloud, a male wild dog that we collared this season, belongs to Marine pack.

Marine and Metsi packs went on to have over 15 pups each during the breeding season this year, so these new packs have their work cut out for them! We’ll be interested to see what we learn about Cloud and Fossey as they continue to raise their pups. Stay tuned!

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