Jeffrey Barbee tells of his wild dog experience in the Ruaha National Park, Tanzania.

The Ruaha National Park about 130 km west of Iringa, Tanzania is known for its wild dog, lion, spotted hyena, East African cheetah and the African leopard. Working with Haley Jackson on a project in this beautiful part of our continent was a rare delight.

My visit to the park was during the wet season which made it hard to find the number of animals the park is famous for due to the animals dispersing into regions further from the main river and the high grass. Adding to this the fact that the wild dog is classified by the IUCN  as an endangered species, my encounter with them so much more exceptional.

We found ourselves in the right spot at the right time. It was rather late in the day when our guide, Joel Mfinanga, spotted some furry characters cavorting in the last light of day. Needless to say, we could not let such an opportunity pass us and with utmost caution we’ve slowly moved forward, step by step as not to disturb them. We’ve moved about 400 meters and managed to end up right next to them.

Joel mentioned he never before had such a close sighting with wild dogs before as they are shy and rare at best of times. In Ruaha their large range also puts them in danger of human-animals conflict. Joel recognized the pack and was quick to notice it missed one of its seven members, but it was the pupping season, so maybe she was back in the den suckling a new generation of these gorgeous creatures.

This was an up close and personal experience I will never forget, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of Africa and places I have yet to visit.

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