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November 2009 Travel Zambia 37 Size: 105- 150cm; tail 30- 40cm; 20- 30kg Food: primarily small to medium- sized antelope, eg impala Breeding: 2- 10 pups born March- July; spend fi rst 3 months in den Social behaviour: packs of 10- 30; highly nomadic Population: ± 4000 patchily distributed over sub- Saharan Africa Status: Endangered; threats include hunting, disease, road traffi c and snares AFRICAN WILD DOG AT A GLANCE There were eight altogether, all looking healthy and sleek: an alpha female and seven 18- month- old pups. The pack seemed to be in hunting mode, moving forward purposefully with ears fl attened, the female leading. They disappeared again and we drove round to the road ahead, hoping to meet up with them there. After about 45 minutes they reappeared, looking decidedly fatter, a bit bloody and very pleased with themselves. They came right up to the vans to check us out and then settled by the side of the road in the sun. We spent three magical hours with the pack. Every now and then, one dog would get up and nudge another to play; at times up to fi ve would wrestle in a puddle, like kids in a paddling pool, though always remaining alert. Meanwhile, vultures had led our guides to the kill. It turned out to have been a young impala - now just a clean- picked skull attached to a bit of backbone. The dogs had eaten the lot, bones and all. Eventually, the pack decided to move off into longer grass to enjoy their siesta. Soon all we could see was the occasional fl ick of an ear or swish of a tail. We headed back for lunch, planning to catch up with them later. We had travelled a long way from the lodge, though, so we were astonished, rounding a corner, to fi nd brunch and Pimms all laid out in the bush. A wonderful end to the perfect morning. We returned to the dogs around 4pm. They hadn't moved far and were still diffi cult to see. And then the rain came. And more rain. It didn't seem to faze the dogs, but we were eventually driven back by the cold and the wet. Still, nothing could have topped our morning. At last, I had seen wild dog! Postscript The dogs left the area that night and we were unable to fi nd them again. On our two remaining days, however, we enjoyed more wonderful game drives, seeing everything from giraffes to elephant shrews - and yet more leopards. Our fi nal night ended with a special champagne sundowner. No farewell bleeps from the dogs. But it didn't matter: thanks to our wonderful guides at AWDC we'd had our dog day and would never forget it. Wild Dog Week is a 7- night safari run every March by Robin Pope Safaris and organised in conjunction with African Wild Dog Conservation ( AWDC), who have been monitoring dogs in Zambia since 1998. Sightings are not guaranteed though chances are good. Also includes usual safari activities with RPS. Find out more at www. robinpopesafaris. net Wildlife focus Wild dogs can be surprisingly tolerant of vehicles and often approach out of curiosity A researcher from AWDC searches for a radio signal from a collared dog ROBIN POPE SAFARIS MERLITH MCKENDRICKROBIN POPE SAFARIS It's not just about dogs: leopard sightings were a daily feature of the safari

Let's face it: when it comes to safari wish lists it's the killers that take top billing. We may think of ourselves as peace-loving individuals, but there's no disguising our thrill at the power, stealth and sheer purpose that marks out nature's top predators - even if they seem to spend much of their time just lounging around. Zambia has an impressive selection of creatures for whom staying alive means killing something else. Here are ten to look out for. Vakacha Around Zambia · agricultural tours · safari news · travel latest · a helping hand Around Zambia: Red in tooth and claw 2 Leopard, South Luangwa National Park This most beautiful of predators is surely Zambia's top safari trump card. South Luangwa's sightings tally is the envy of all Africa, while Kafue and Lower Zambezi are not far behind. Most widespread of Africa's big cats, the leopard owes its success to its elusive and versatile nature: at home everywhere from rainforest to desert, hunting anything from frogs to young giraffe, and the only big cat to stash prey routinely in a tree. Listen out for hysterical baboons: a sure sign of a leopard in the vicinity. 3 Spotted hyena, Liuwa Plain National Park Not everybody's cup of tea, perhaps, but these resourceful and powerful predators are not to be underestimated: more than a match for any leopard, and even capable - in suffi cient numbers - of turning the tables on lion. Their scavenging habits are well known, but perhaps less appreciated is their considerable hunting prowess. This can be witnessed on the open grasslands of Liuwa Plain, where hyenas are the dominant predator. 4 Wild dog, southern Kafue The appearance of Africa's most endangered large carnivore is notoriously hard to predict. Highly nomadic, these restless pack animals wander vast distances in search of prey and denning sites. Sightings - always a privilege - are most numerous in Luangwa and Kafue, with the latter's Nanzhila Plains offering as good a chance as anywhere. Keep an eye on prey animals, such as puku and impala: they become extremely jumpy when wild dog are around. 5 Cheetah, northern Kafue This elegant cat is the world's fastest mammal. It has a restricted range in Zambia, confi ned to western areas and entirely absent from the Luangwa and Zambezi valleys. Kafue National Park is the cheetah's stronghold, with the Busanga Plains in particular offering ideal open habitat for its high- speed hunting technique. Cheetahs are vulnerable to disturbance and do not compete well with other large predators. Plans are afoot, however, to reintroduce this rare cat to some of their former haunts around the country. 1 Lion, North Luangwa National Park A healthy population of Africa's top predator exists in Luangwa, Kafue and Lower Zambezi national parks, though sightings are rare elsewhere. There is no greater safari thrill than tracking these big cats on foot - and no better place to do this than on the fl ood plains of North Luangwa, where the local prides tail the area's large buffalo herds. Listen out in the small hours for that thunderous moan; guaranteed to send shivers down the spine - especially if you're under canvas. huless WILDERNESS SAFARISROBIN POPE SAFARISROBIN POPE SAFARISZNTBROBIN POPE SAFARIS 38 Travel Zambia November 2009 35 4 8 Liuwa Plain NP Sioma Ngwezi NP West Lunga NP Kafue NP Mwinilunga Solwezi Limulunga Mongu Kaoma Livingstone Kazungula Victoria Falls Zambezi River Kafue River