Saturday, June 9, 2012
Wilds dogs in Botswana...
We rose at 5:30am in hopes of tracking down the very rare wild dog. There are fewer than 3000 wild dogs left in the world and more than 90% live in Botswana. After grinding tracks we circled above where we thought they were headed and eventually found them lounging on the channel banks with a fresh kill of male impala. There were 14 wild dogs in this group...what great luck!
They have beautiful coloring of black and tan splashed on their bodies. Their faces are black and they have huge oval ears that provide them exceptional hearing abilities. These dogs have a super high metabolism and need to feed constantly. They will sometimes hunt up to three times a day. We watched them finish off the remains of the impala and then start to play with each other. Their antics were good fun to watch as they wrestled and nipped at each other...running round in circles and tumbling over each other. One would crouch down like a hunter and the other would come at him in the same hunting position from the opposite direction then they would charge at each other and rise onto their hind legs as they battled in the air with their front paws and sharp white teeth.
Of all the animals in the bush that I have seen after 25 years of travel to Africa I this was my first sighting of wild dogs and I felt so blessed to see these rare creatures while they still roam the planet. My group must be bringing me luck because when you look back on the last 24 hours we have seen 19 lions and 14 wild dogs...just an incredible count! Linyanti is living up to its reputation for having some of the best wildlife sightings in Botswana (in all of Africa for that matter).
Botswana has set aside 40% of its territory as protected park lands and the results have been spectacular. Due to a prosperous economy (diamonds & tourism), stable government, remote parks, and intelligent game management Bostwana can easily say it has the best wildlife in Africa. The elephants alone number almost 100,000 individuals which is the largest population in the world. The landscape is rich and varied. To the north the rivers from Angola flow into a system of waterways that provide excellent habitat for game in what is the largest freshwater delta in the world (Okavango Delta). The delta is created by fault lines that create depressions where the water fingers down from the north into the famed Kalahari desert. The water never reached the ocean as the desert and eastern escarpment of the Great Rift Valley blocks its path.
I am proud to partner with companies like Wilderness Safaris who lease private concessions which they are responsible to manage. They have extensive anti poaching networks and they also have a great program called Children in the Wilderness wherein the bring kids from local communities into the camps for a week long educational program designed to help them realize the importance of protecting the environment and the animals for future generations. They follow this up 4 times a year and work in HIV aids education as well. Any kid that wants to become a guide has the opportunity to take their training and Wilderness provides hundreds of jobs to local people in their camps thought Africa. They are also a pioneer in lowering the carbon footprint of their operations.
Today, I inspected a new camp being built that will be 100% solar operated including all the cold storage...amazing! That will have bio gas created by food and human waste that will be used to create cooking gas for the camp. They invested over $7 million US in the solar project alone for this one camp. That eliminates an incredible amount of diesel gas used both from the trucking and transport of the diesel from South Africa and of course from the daily use in camp which I belief is about 50 gallons a day. I feel great to know that my guests' safaris help underwrite and promote all these good efforts from conservation to community outreach.
Kudos to Wilderness Safaris!!! They have come a long way since the old days when I joined them in 1989 - in those days we just took a trailer, set up pup tents and slept on the ground. We had bucket showers and no electricity at all. I would sometimes sleep up on the roof of the land rover under a million stars. Ahhh, great memories!