By Nicholas Dyer
In the far north of Zimbabwe lies a paradise, moulded against the meandering flow of the mighty Zambezi River. It is protected in the south by a rugged escarpment that forms a natural boundary between humanity and the creatures that lie within. This is Mana Pools National Park; a pristine wilderness, a little Eden and a protected sanctuary where animals can live their lives far from the ravages of mankind. Within this community of rambling elephants, grazing antelopes, prowling cats and foraging baboons, roam some very remarkable creatures – the painted wolves.
The exact numbers are uncertain, but three packs are gaining considerable notoriety as the BBC rolls out its series ‘Dynasties’, estimated to reach up to a billion people. Tait, the alpha female of the Vundu Pack, is one of the legends of Mana Pools. Born in 2005, she lived until the ripe old age of ten and, having had many successful litters, her strong genes flow through much of the existing population. Her two daughters, Blacktip and Tammy, are now successful leaders of the Nyakasanga and Nyamatusi Packs who roam the floodplains where Tait used to rule supreme.
The BBC film is about this ‘dynasty’ and tells the story of the interaction between Tait and her daughter Blacktip and a shift in dominance as Blacktip pushes her mother into the lion-infested Nyamatusi Wilderness Area and the consequences that unfold. Beautifully narrated by David Attenborough, Nick Lyon, the producer, describes the film as Game of Thrones in the African bush.
I first met Tait on my first visit to Mana Pools in 2013. A very kind Zimbabwean guide invited me to accompany him on foot as we followed her pack on the hunt. I remember this as being one of the most incredible experiences of my life and planted the seeds of a deep love for this animal that turned into an obsession and perhaps an addiction. Since that time, I have spent over 360 days following these packs and Mana Pools has become more my home than anywhere else I currently know.
Purchase Issue 10 of our Nzira Travel Magazine for more on the painted wolves!