Klipspringers – a species of African antelope with a mountain goat-like ability to navigate steep precipices – are no easy target for predators. Their nimbleness over rocky terrain tests even the most accomplished and determined hunters. Footage recently captured in South Africa's MalaMala Game Reserve shows a trio of klipspringers staying firm on a large boulder while a pack of African painted dogs nip at the antelope from a tantalisingly close position on the top of the rocks. 

"What makes this sighting utterly unbelievable is the fact that wild dogs are not known to be climbers of any sort," MalaMala head guide Gareth van Rooyen told Latest Sightings. Their paws are not at all designed for what we witness here! The fact that the dogs did not slip or fall is incredible in itself."

This particular pack of 21 painted dogs had been seen on the reserve on more than one occasion in the last week or so. On the afternoon of 22 February, rangers spotted the dogs on the prowl, likely on the lookout for a meal. Painted dogs are coordinated hunters that use their stamina and intelligence to run down prey. They may hunt multiple times in a single day, especially if there are many mouths to feed.

The dogs came across the klipspringers and, using a technique that's not uncommon for the predators, they cornered the antelope in the hopes of securing a meal. Painted dogs have been documented utilising water sources or fences as cut-off points to strategically 'herd' prey species into vulnerable situations. So pushing the klipspringers to the brink and surrounding them is a tactic straight out of the painted dog playbook.

"It was mostly the young wild dogs who were trying to get to the klipspringers," van Rooyen explained. It's possible that the adults could already see that the pursuit was more effort than it's worth. With the antelope perched precariously near to the edge of a large boulder, the pups clambered to the top of the big rock and edged their way closer. According to van Rooyen, this is not the first time rangers on MalaMala have witnessed klipspringers come under siege by a pack of wild dogs and it's possible that the antelope have had to initiate a similar escape strategy in the past.

"As daunting it may be having these predators in their habitat, they [the klipspringers] were designed by Mother Nature to live in rocky outcrops. Their hooves are very pointy, allowing them to be very nimble and agile on rocks such as these. And living in habitats like these usually assists in avoiding the bigger predators," van Rooyen points out.

As the guides watched with bated breath, the antelope held their position and the dogs eventually abandoned the hunt, instead moving on to more common prey: an impala.


Top header image: Mathias Appel, Flickr