wild dogs

The “hoo” call

After watching Big V and the other elephants until the light faded, we decided to get back to our lodge, as you are not allowed to drive in the dark. Shortly after the turn off to our lodge my wife heard a strange call. As it was unusual we stopped and listened.

At first we thought that it was an owl or some other large bird. Whatever its origin,  we were sure that we had not heard it before so we decided to retrace our “tyre marks” and see if we could spot the originator.

We returned to the main road and, immediately, my wife spotted three ghosts that, as they got closer, gradually became  African wild dogs (painted dogs) walking in the dry bush. We stopped, watched and listened. Suddenly, one dog crossed the road in front of us and started emitting the sound we have heard earlier. It was a plaintive sound repeated three or four times. The call was repeated a few times and then the dogs got together again and walked into the darkness.

The only option I had to record the sound was to take a video and hope that the sound if not the image will reflect what we heard. The results are a dark video with the wild dog call repeated three times.

Later on I learnt that when wild dogs get separated from their packs they get very concerned and in these situations they emit the call we heard that aims at getting a reply from the pack in order to reunite with them. This call is known -rather appropriately- as a “hoo” call.

So, what we saw were probably three dogs trying to re-join their pack by hoo calling. Later on we learnt that there was indeed a pack of about twenty dogs roaming around Mana Pools at the time so we probably saw three members of that group.

After that, we lost them but their plaintive call got “recorded” in our minds.

The hoo call (and the bad video!):

I am sure that you will agree with me that you do not expect such a sound to come from a wild dog!