Monday, November 19, 2007

A painted puppy (or 17) for her birthday

A long-held tradition here on the Blog Safari, Legion of Fans, is for Mr and Mrs Blog to take a very early morning game drive to celebrate Mrs B's birthday. It's always in November (funnily enough) and we're always in Africa in November.

Unusually, this year, was the fact that there were 21 other people in Pretoriuskop Camp in the Kruger National Park for this year's birthday, along with enough alcohol to stop an army. So, getting up at 4.15am, in order to be out the camp gate by 4.30am, required significant effort and commitment on the birthday girl's part (and mine).

We cranked Tonka the Series III Land Rover into action (to all of you who have kindly asked after his health I can report that he is, complete with new clutch plate and pressure plate, fit and well - at least as fit and well as a 23-year-old Land Rover can be) in the knowledge that in Africa the early bird does, indeed, catch the lion.

On cue, at Shitlhave Dam, about 1okm there was an impressive male lion, a fitting curtain raiser to the main event which was the appearance of 17 endangered African Wild Dogs (also known as Painted Dogs) at Transport Dam.

Regular readers will know that I rarely let an opportunity for shameless self promotion (or promotion of worthy causes) slip by in this blog. Wild Dogs feature in my latest book "SAFARI" (rrp AUD$32.95 at all good bookstores and now available in South Africa).

The book opens with a dedicated wildlife researcher getting a bit emotional after one of the Painted Dogs she has been studying is killed, defending her brood of puppies, by some nasty old lionesses.

I like Wild Dogs, almost as much as I like people who buy my books, so it was great to hear, recently, from an Aussie couple behind the Painted Dog Conservation organisation, who were not long back in Perth after spending quite some time researching dogs in Zimbabwe, where the book is set. Painted Dog Conservation is dedicated, not surprisingly, to the conservation of painted dogs. They support research and local education projects and conservation activities. Their cause is good, and they're very nice people, to0.

The couple in question had read SAFARI and, to my intense relief, didn't email me saying "you have no bloody idea what you are talking about". Phew, legion of fans.

On the big B-Day, Mrs B and I arrived at Transport Dam for the aftermath of a particularly grisly affair - the killing of a pregnant Waterbuck. Not good pre-breakfast viewing for the faint hearted, but, hey, a dog has to survive and there are a lot more waterbuck in Africa (believe me) than there are Wild Dog, which are down to a few thousand.

They're Africa's most successful, efficient predator, and their kids are cute when they're little. Although they can't breed with domestic dogs, they do share certain traits, such as rolling around in pooh and dead things, sniffing each other's bottoms, dragging said bottoms along the ground, and standing around with their tongues lolling out of grinning, goofy mouths.
They're a great animal to see in the bush, not only because they're rare, but also because they are always doing something in daylight hours - trotting, sniffing, giving each other piggy backs, ripping other creatures apart. Excellent stuff, unlike lions, which spend most of the (human)waking day sleeping. The highlight of a lion sighting is usually some big over-stuffed cat rolling over on its back for five seconds.

Sadly, one of the adult dogs in the impressive pack we saw on B-Day had a snare around its neck, which was causing a nasty wound. Not even the magnificent Kruger Park can escape the problem of poaching. In this case, the snare was, I suppose, set by someone trying to catch a small buck to eat - or sell as bush meat. Mrs B and I reported the snared animal, and the pack's location, to a wild dog hotline, run by researchers in the park.

The Painted Dog Conservation people in Australia have kindly invited me to speak at a fundraiser some time in the future if I ever get to Perth and I would be very keen to do so.

Don't worry, Rhino people, I haven't forgotten you and, as a reminder, I will be talking about rhinocerous conservation and Land Rover spare parts at a dinner dance for the SAVE foundation, NSW branch, on Saturday, February 9, at 7pm at the Hunter's Hill Sailing Club, Merrington Place, Woolwich. (For details contact: )

But back to the birthday girl and the dogs. Mrs B, now that she has recovered fully from her hangover, says thank you all for your kind wishes (and gifts, where appropriate). For the dog lovers (and I know you are out there), here are a couple more pics.


meggie said...

Well done to get up so early after celebarations.
It does look to be well worth the effort though. Those dogs are amazing. Thanks for the pics.

ali g said...

as I recall..didn't get up as actually never went to bed..yes top shots of the puppies...hope the rangers found them and rescued the one with the snare around his/her neck.

bec said...

And this from the SAVE website for all those Westralians who said they would have come to your fundraiser if it were on their side of the country:

Our next major event:

An evening with Ian Chappell

A Dinner/auction with celebrated former
cricketing great, Ian Chappell.

Monday 10 December 2007.
Grand Ballroom, Hyatt Regency Perth.
3 course meal, wines and beers, all included.
Fantastic array of sporting memorabilia, safaris, paintings and African sculptures, all for auction.
Zimbabwe's remaining wildlife, especially the black rhino, will benefit from this function.
Magnificent corporate entertainment opportunity.
Our early-bird special will end at close of play this Friday. From then on the tickets will cost $110 each - sorry!

But right now it's only an amazingly low $825 for a table of ten or $85 per individual seat.

But please book by Friday night.

Nicholas Duncan, telephone (08) 9444 6550, Mobile 0417 937 655,

bec said...

And how is Ali G managing to comment from so far away from his giant screen?

ali g said...

actually back home again Bec...sunnies on et of chardy in hand and cat on lap....shakes slowly receeding as the giant screens gamma rays seep back into my system. Lifes good.

bec said...

Aah. That explains it.

As for the pic on my blog? The handle is under the sign.

redcap said...

Great photos, as usual :)