It was a crisp, chilly morning as I lay in bed listening to the wind howling outside. I drew the curtains, and peered out of the window. Even the mighty baobab that stands tall behind my bedroom had its branches blowing in the wind.
I sipped on a warm cup of coffee, and as I was planning my morning, I received a message from my friend, Tamsyn.
She said that the vets were on their way to help an injured wild dog close to Crocodile Bridge, but that they needed someone to keep a visual on the dog until they got there, and she couldn’t go because it would her take too long to get there (She is based in Marloth Park – Approx 25 mins from Crocodile Bridge).
They’d had a sighting of the injured dog in the early morning, and Tamsyn had sent the sighting to The Endangered Wildlife Trust, who monitor the dogs in Kruger, in conjunction with Sanparks.
The dogs leg was in a bad way, and they’d been trying to treat it for few weeks, but every time the vets came out from Skukuza, the dogs would move and they weren’t able to find them.
To give you an idea, it’s approximately 2 – 2 and half hours from Skukuza to Crocodile Bridge, and wild dogs can cover far distances, very quickly within that time.
With us living right at the gate, it was easy for Toni and I to hop in the car quickly and go and see if we could locate it.
Tamsyn sent me a location of the most recent area that they’d been spotted, and off we went. We arrived there, but there was no sign of the dogs, and so we asked a few other vehicles passing us, if they’d had any wild dog sightings – and luckily they had (If you're reading this by any chance - thanks so much guys!).
We drove up and down, next to that block, but with no visual on the dogs (The bush is incredibly thick in this area). Eventually we headed down another road, and as we reached the dip, found the injured wild dog next to the road. I quickly turned off my vehicle, and sent the location to EWT (Endangered Wildlife Trust).
I didn’t even want to breathe, I was so scared the dog would hop up and head in to the bushes. At one point he did get up, and limped a little further in, then he lay there whimpering like a domestic dog, in pain. My heart just broke.
A little while later, our section ranger arrived, and I was so relieved to see him. I explained where the dog was lying, but that I was too scared to start my car, in case it ran off. He agreed and said the vets would be here in 30 minutes.
30 minutes felt like eternity, I silently prayed that the dog stayed put, and then the vets arrived. They drove past us on the right hand side, and we pointed to where the dog was. With the dart gun at the ready they drove a little further down, and then managed to dart the dog, which came bursting out the bushes on to the road and then pulled the dart out with its teeth. Not long after the dog was asleep in a nice opening on the side of the dirt track.
The vet picked the dog up, and put it on the back of his bakkie to have a closer look. The snare had cut through so much of the leg, and apart from that injury, he also had a deep wound on the top of his head, which was a bite, thought to be from a hyena.
The vet removed the snare, and cleaned both wounds; they also did a nose swab for canine distemper, took some blood samples and gave him ( the most beautiful male) a few injections; antibiotics, Ivermectin (which my dear friend, and neighbor from the opposite farm, Stef came to the rescue with), pain meds and something for the inflammation.
They fitted a collar on the dog, which means they'lll be able to monitor him, and check on his recovery. Wild dogs are resilient animals, and we hope he will be fine.
Another one of the pack also has a collar, and so, when the wild dog had been fully treated, one of the vets headed out on another vehicle with the telemetry (the device used to pick up the collar signal). He soon discovered that the pack weren’t far off from where we were, in the same block.
They played the wild dog call over the speakers fitted on the vet’ vehicle, and moments later, the pack appeared.
It was one of the most incredible moments of my life, seeing wild dogs on foot, so near to us.
Then, the vet injected the injured dog with the reversal meds to wake up; he lifted his head slightly, still a little drowsy and moments later was up and reunited with his pack.
I write this story with tears in my eyes, emotional for what that dog has had to endure with that snare (and absolutely horrified that a human being, would want to harm an animal in such a way), but also with so much gratitude for these men, these heroes; the vets, the section ranger, The Endangered Wildlife Trust.
There will never be enough words to describe how incredible they are, for all the good work they do for conservation, and for our precious, beloved Kruger.
And every time I get to have an experience with wild dogs in Kruger, I fall more in love them. They are just the most amazing animals.
Today was such a privilege, and a very special day that I will never forget.