One of my favourite animals in the world is also one of the most misunderstood. Painted wolves are incredibly brilliant, beautiful creatures, but for decades they have been maligned as one of the pests of the bush.
While here in South Africa staying at Ulusaba, one of the undoubted highlights has been seeing painted wolves up close. We are fortunate enough to have two packs often within the Ulusaba grounds, including one that is 18 wolves strong. On the first night I arrived we saw them hunting, and again the following morning.
On both occasions we witnessed Mother Nature in action as they brought down an impala. It is incredibly rare to see painted wolves in the flesh, let alone see them successfully hunting. From that, we went straight to seeing new-born giraffes, then a leopard pulling another impala up into a tree to protect its kill from other predators. Seeing all of this in such a short time is almost unheard of, and another reason why Ulusaba deserves its new status as the best resort in Africa.
But amongst all of the animals and majestic surroundings, the painted wolves stand out. They are the most impressive animals in the bush. They work as a family, they hunt as a team and they look after their young and their wounded. They are remarkably efficient hunters, and – as we saw as their young climbed around the tyres of our jeep – seriously playful.
One of the reasons their numbers plummeted alarmingly was because people thought of them as vermin. They were known as wild dogs, and this name helped to cast a negative light on them. As somebody who has always been interested in branding and marketing, if we could get everybody to call them painted wolves, it would make quite the difference to their reputation, and therefore their survival. Many people have begun to realise the beauty of them and their numbers have grown back. Long may it continue.
What’s your favourite animal, and why?