In the next part of our “Looking Back” series, we share some of our research highlights of 2013 with you.
“One of the things the AWCF team, and that includes our students, pride themselves on is sound scientific research with the aim of better informed management and conservation policies. Not only does this present a welcome opportunity to get out of the office and into the wild bush, but also an opportunity to constantly learn more about what we do, be surprised and wowed at the unpredictability and magnificence of nature, and to better understand the changes we need to make in order to be better as a conservation organisation.” – Rosemary Groom.
In July 2013, Rosemary presented a paper at the Society for Conservation Biology (ICCB) conference in Baltimore, USA. Entitled “Taking a Multi-Disciplinary Approach To Conservation. The Value of Education and Community Engagement in Landscape Level Conservation of Endangered Species”, it was well received. She also delivered lectures at National Geographic and at the US Fish & Wildlife Services headquarters. She visited the renowned big cat conservation organisation Panthera and the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York.
In November, Rosemary presented another paper at the Symposium for Contemporary Conservation Practice held in Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa. “Taking A Range Wide Approach To The Conservation of Two Wide Ranging Threatened Large Carnivores: The Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) And The African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus).”
AWCF’s Field Project Coordinator & Conservation Biologist Rosemary Groom was selected as a National Geographic Expert to participate in an expedition through South Africa, Zambia and Botswana in July. Rosemary will be doing a further two trips for National Geographic later this year as a wildlife expert (so watch this space!)
Lions and hyenas are a constant hassle for wild dogs in the SVC. We made a remarkable (if not grisly!) discovery at the beginning of the denning season when we went to set up camera traps at the den of a pack of four dogs (split from the Batanai pack). You can imagine our surprise at finding the corpse of a young male lion with most of his body lying in the den where the pups and the alpha female were! We managed to extract the lion carcass (with the help from the guys from Sango Ranch). Read more about this curious event!
Fantastic wild dog sightings! The nature of our research provides us with the opportunity to spend many hours at den sites and in close proximity to the packs, allowing us to witness their behaviour and nature and learn to appreciate them for the unique and remarkable species they are.
Sitting and watching the Mapura pack one evening in September, the adults and six-week old pups put on a wonderful “show” for us. Just to observe how much the beta litter pups learn by mimicking the adults and slightly older alpha litter pups, is amazing. Visual observations combined with trail cameras help us to greater understand the social complexities of this unique and threatened species.
AWCF conducted a very successful camera trap survey in June and July to better understand the factors affecting wild dog den selection in Savé Valley Conservancy. This was a massive undertaking for which we are eternally thankful to Panthera for their assistance! We employed 100 Panthera V4 camera traps rotated across seven grids over the space of two months covering a large proportion of the north of the conservancy. The data are currently being analysed by our new honours student Matthew Wijers, from Stellenbosch University and we hope to start producing some of our findings in this New Year. This survey gave us some wonderful photographic material and some very interesting “candid camera” type shots of the local wildlife going about their daily business. We were shortlisted in the 2013 BBC Wildlife Camera Trap Survey Competition for one of the photos captured during this survey; a bush baby jumping through trees.
Annual carnivore spoor surveys carried out in both Gonarezhou and Savé Valley Conservancy for the 5th and 7th year respectively. Both yielding important data on movement trends for carnivore species.
A wild dog pack was collared in Gonarezhou. This is a BIG deal! Very isolated field conditions, tough terrain, and wild dogs that are not accustomed to seeing humans meant we had our work cut out for us!