After their abortive hunt, the dogs ended up widely dispersed. They slowly reassembled at their original starting point, and as each small group met other dogs, they greeted each other. In this photo the two in the foreground are being greeted by four others.
These social rituals are central to the pack’s cohesion.
After a while, they decided to set off in a new direction. No-one really knows how these group decisions are reached, but the pack only all follow once one of the alpha pair sets off. It is now thought that sneezes are among the subtle signals they use to coordinate their movements, using a quorum system where movements start once the number of sneezes reaches a certain threshold.
After five minutes, they saw impala in the distance:
In fact there was not one but two impala (look carefully at the next photo), and they proved to be the dogs’ Achilles heels, because the pack split, and both attempts failed.
These two hunts took place within half an hour of each other. They obviously went on trying, because next morning we found them some distance away, fast asleep with full stomachs.
Two days later, we followed a single wild dog who was trotting in the opposite direction to some fleeing impala, and he was heading towards a group of vultures. Underneath we found a freshly killed and already devoured impala. There was still blood on the grass, and stomach contents on the sand. The pack eat on the spot as soon as they kill, usually polishing off an impala in about 20 minutes. We were too late to see them eating.
A final yawn, and next time, I promise to move on to another topic!
[PS: There is a terrific conservation organization in Zambia collecting data on the collaborative large carnivores (lions and wild dogs). If you are interested, here is their website http://www.zambiacarnivores.org. ]