Doing what we can, to help an endangered species survive!

It is the start of the denning season for our wild dog packs in Save Valley Conservancy and Gonarezhou National Park, and whilst the wild dogs settle down to breed and welcome new (small, cute and wrinkly!) members to their packs, we have been doing all we can to ensure they have a safe environment in which to do so, and to give the species the best chance of survival in the Zimbabwean Lowveld.

RUNNING TO SAVE AFRICA’S WILD DOGS

This year’s Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon was a huge success with a total of USD 14 500 raised for African wild dog conservation and our conservation work! We had runners from across the globe come together and run for our cause, and some pulled out all the stops to do so!

Marine Drouilly was so dedicated she trained at night, and by head lamp (!), to avoid the intense heat whilst busy with research in the Karoo! This resulted in an unfortunate fall into an aardvark hole one evening and a badly sprained ankle. However, this did not stop Marine from competing on the day and being our second highest fundraiser for the event! Heidi Mehring was our top fundraiser, and she most certainly deserved it after all of the pole-a-thons, spin-a thons and boot camps she organised!

The aardvark hole Marine fell in - thanks for sharing Marine!

The aardvark hole Marine fell in – thanks for sharing Marine!

Thank you Heidi for your incredible fundraising effort!

Thank you Heidi for your incredible fundraising effort!

 

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Some of our proud runners on the day.

First AWCF runner across the finish line!

First AWCF runner across the finish line!

Thank you to our team, and a HUGE thank you, once again, to all our generous sponsors and supporters. Steve Adams and the Safari Store (www.thesafaristore.co.uk), Jeremy and Emma Borg of Painted Wolf Wines (www.paintedwolfwines.com) and local artist, Lin Barrie (http://wildlifeandwilddogs.wordpress.com/art/).

Also to Franni Vivier from EventsOne (www.eone.co.za) and Wendy Crous from Bahaza Cooperate Clothing and Gifts (www.bahaza.co.za) for our gorgeous kit on the day! And finally, to the OMTOM for giving us the opportunity to be a part of the event once again. Hopefully see you all again next year :)

 

CHILOJO CLUB EDUCATION PROGRAM LAUNCHED!

On the 11 May, we officially launched our Chilojo Club Education Program around Gonarezhou National Park. We have collaborated with Zimbabwe National Parks and Frankfurt Zoological Society to form the Chilojo Club; an over-arching term, and an umbrella initiative, for our joint community outreach efforts. Chilojo Club was chosen after the Chilojo Cliffs; part of the natural heritage of the people in the area, a uniting symbol, and natural beauty.

Local chiefs, councilors and village heads gathered together for the launch.

Local chiefs, councilors and village heads gathered together for the launch.

The room was also filled with local teachers from the schools neighbouring GNP, and which will be supported by the program.

The room was also filled with local teachers from the schools neighbouring GNP, and which will be supported by the program.

Children performed song, dance and plays of wildlife conservation and what Gonarezhou National Park means to them.

Children performed songs, dances and plays of wildlife conservation and what Gonarezhou National Park means to them.

Poachers caught by the Park's rangers!

Poachers caught by the Park’s rangers!

The Chiefs, village heads and District Education Officer showing their support for the Chilojo Club.

The Chiefs, village heads and District Education Officer showing their support for the Chilojo Club.

A keepsake from the event for the people.

A keepsake from the event for the people.

It is still early days, but we are hoping that the Chilojo Club may become a symbol for many good things over time. The start of a Chilojo Soccer Club perhaps, Chilojo community engagement initiatives, and so forth. However, we are starting with Chilojo Club Education Program, which we hope will have many benefits, not only for the local people, but for the wildlife too.

This is still plenty more to come over the next few months. And, whilst we carry on doing our best to reach our conservation goals, we wish our wild dogs a successful denning season!

Educating, Empowering, Conserving!

It is all too often said that education is fundamental to mobilise change. In our case, it is the building blocks for long-term support of wildlife conservation, and sustainable use of natural resources by local communities.

Local Teachers, Local Heroes

With 89 schools to support around Savé Valley Conservancy, Victor typically only reaches each school once per term, or three times per year. Thus, we ultimately rely on our local teachers to implement our conservation resources and education materials on a day-to-day basis. As such, we recently had a Teachers Feedback Workshop where we evaluated our existing resources with a gathering of local teachers, and discussed what type of resources they would find most useful in the future.

This was a wonderful day where educators came together and shared ideas on how to implement resources into their classes and motivate the children’s interest in wildlife. Ultimately, we want our resources to be user-friendly, compatible with the existing syllabus, helpful and USED by the teachers!

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Teachers enjoying themselves at the workshop.

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Attachment student, Golden Mukaro, discusses our carnivore posters with the teachers.

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Rosemary Groom chairs a collective feedback session at the end of the workshop.

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Thank you to the Chiredzi District Education Officer for attending the workshop!

 

Dressed for Success

Have a look at our revamped vehicle for our Gonarezhou Predator Project education team. Taking wildlife to the people! Not only is the vehicle fun and exciting for the children, but it depicts much of the local wildlife from Gonarezhou National Park, including the iconic Chilojo Cliffs. Ezekia and Anesu, our community education officers for the project, are definitely going to draw the crowds in as they move through the communities, and as such, have plenty of opportunity to educate, empower, and encourage the local people to help conserve!

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Ezekia and Anesu, our proud and excited community education officers.

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pangolin, school children, zebra and more…

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An African Fish Eagle soars across the bonnet.

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Of course there are some African wild dogs camped out on the door!

 

 A Picture says a Thousand Words

It is currently school holidays so Victor has spent the last two weeks busy with our Mobile Education Library in the communities. This is an opportunity for all, young and old, to learn about wild dogs, watch wildlife documentaries and read books and magazines that cover a spectrum of environmental and conservation issues.

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Victor addresses a local community about African wild dog conservation.

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Why are wild dogs decreasing?

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These gatherings are a great opportunity for local people to discuss problems they may be having living alongside wildlife, or local farming problems, and to be provided with sound and practical solutions.

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A young man eyes one of our carnivore posters.

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Learning about water conservation.

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A group of gentlemen discuss the material they have come across.

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Three young girls thoroughly enjoying their morning at the AWCF Mobile Education Library!

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The DVD’s are a very popular activity and the people will cram themselves into the smallest places to get a brief glimpse of the documentary.

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Three older men gather under the shade of a tree to learn more about wildlife conservation.

 

There is still plenty more to come this year, including another Happy Readers Workshop to provide literacy books to another 10 schools, our leadership and conservation training field trip for our secondary scholars, and cluster competitions between the schools where they will battle it out to show who has the most extensive knowledge of African wild dogs and predator conservation!

A Leader is Lost

A few weeks ago we found the collar of the very old alpha male of Mapura Pack, Nyoka. We never found his carcass, so we do not know what happened to him, but he has not been seen with his pack for three weeks suggesting he died. Nyoka was 8 years old, and bite marks across the top of the collar indicate he was probably killed by lions.

Nyoka, a fearless leader

Nyoka, a fearless leader

 

For the past few weeks the pack has been moving around uncollared, and seeing as they like to venture outside of the conservancy, this situation was less than ideal. Fortunately, we received a report of the dogs resting at a water point yesterday afternoon, and due to the incredible heat at the moment, the pack hadn’t moved at all when we got there.

We managed to dart a young male (who will be called Dirk after the water point we found the pack at!) and fitted him with a satellite collar. We will now be able to keep a better watch of the pack and make sure they come to no harm.

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Dirk immobilised with plenty of ice packs to keep cool!

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Rosemary Groom and Jess Watermeyer relieved with a successful collaring.

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Collaring opportunities are a great hands-on learning experience for our local attachment students!

 

We are sad to see the end of Nyoka’s reign, but wait with anticipation to see how new pack dynamics will unfold as this year’s denning season approaches. Who will step forward and lead the pack alongside the alpha female, Ursula?

Mapura Pack

Mapura Pack

 

P.S. Some of you may remember that Scarlet (the young female who was so badly injured by lions last year) is part of this pack. We are happy to report she is doing well and still with the pack!

Campaigns, Fundraising Crusades and Lazy Dog Days!

2015 has bulldozed its way into action, and what a year it is shaping up to be. For those of you who have been following our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/AfricanWildlifeConservationFund) you will know what we are talking about, for those of you who haven’t (PLEASE do, and LIKE our Facebook page too!) here is a little summary…

It really has been a ‘dog’s life’ for our wild dog packs in Savé Valley Conservancy (SVC) and Gonarezhou National Park (GNP). Between the incredible heat, and the scattered pans of water that are just lingering on past the last rains, the few sightings we have had have gone a little something like this…

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Crocodile pack enjoying the shade

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Mapura pack relaxing at the waters edge

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Inquisitive yearling

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Mbungo pack cooling down

 

Following the 2014 denning season, we are proud to report healthy numbers in both SVC and GNP and, with this year’s denning season just around the corner (can you believe it!), we are hoping to be reporting strong numbers heading into 2016 too.

However, to safeguard this endangered species we need to not only mitigate the threats inside protected areas, but address potentially fatal edge effects too. We recently helped support and organise a very successful rabies campaign which took place two weeks ago in a community neighbouring GNP. This was in response to reported cases of rabid dogs, and a little girl suspected to have died of rabies at the end of 2014. The campaign took place over three days and 1,042 domestic dogs were vaccinated and treated for worms!

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Community members with their dogs

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Part of the team in action!

 

BUT this battle is not over! We are hoping to be able to carry out at least a further three campaigns in key areas surrounding SVC and GNP this year. This is vital to prevent a potentially devastating outbreak of rabies in the local wildlife, to help the domestic dogs and to address a significant human welfare issue. If you would like to contribute, please contact Rosemary Groom ([email protected]) or Jess Watermeyer ([email protected]) and we can send you a little more information on how you can support this very important conservation cause!

Looking ahead at March, and beyond, there are some significant milestones to look forward to. Including a teacher feedback session (to follow up with the teachers in our schools and gather feedback on the resources we are supplying them with, provide additional training etc.), and the launch of our strengthened education program around GNP, as well as the Old Mutual Two Oceans Half Marathon (OMTOM) fundraising event in early April (more on this and how you can support those RUNNING AND RAISING for wild dogs soon).

Cheers for now!

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AWCF Community Liaison Officer, Victor Chibaya, hard at work in the communities

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The AWCF team and support crew thick into their training for the OMTOM fundraising event

 

Wrapping up the year, and what a year it has been!

We have made some significant strides and changes this year, with the end goal of being the best we can be and doing the best we can for African wild dogs and large carnivore conservation in Zimbabwe. We have recently sent out our end of year newsletter which reports on some of our more significant achievements this year. Including, some positive developments in our Education and Outreach Program, welcoming our new attachment student, strong monitoring results for wild dogs in Savé Valley Conservancy and Gonarezhou National Park, and much more.

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School children proud of their Lowveld ABC cards!

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Rosemary helping children on a school course design a wild dog from natural materials.

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Rueben tracking wild dogs in Gonarezhou National Park

To view the full newsletter please visit our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/AfricanWildlifeConservationFund). We hope you enjoy the read, and please feel free to forward as you wish. The more people who know about us and the work we do, the better!

We would also like to take this opportunity to appeal for runners and support for the 2015 Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon Fundraising event. As you may/may not (?) have heard, we have been accepted as one of the few official charities of the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon this year (http://www.twooceansmarathon.org.za/information/run-charity)!

As such we are assembling a team of 50 dedicated athletes who will be running 21 km to raise funds and awareness for AWCF and our pivotal conservation work in the south-east Zimbabwean Lowveld. Our species of focus is the AFRICAN WILD DOG – Africa’s second most endangered carnivore, and a unique and charismatic species heavily threatened by loss of habitat, fragmentation of protected areas, human persecution and accidental wire-snare poaching.

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Wild dogs in the Save Valley Conservancy

Through this event, we want to do all we can to promote AWCF as a conservation NGO, bring about awareness of a conservation cause which we are extremely passionate about, and raise some VERY much needed funds for our conservation work and projects! If you would like to run as part of the team, or would like to support the event in anyway please email [email protected]

Thank you for your support, and we hope that you will consider being a part of our conservation work in 2015. If there is any aspect of our work that you feel you would like to contribute to, or be involved in in anyway, please do not hesitate to contact us. The wild dogs will thank you too!

Thanks for your support!

Thanks for your support!

We wish you all the best for the festive season and the New Year, see you in January 2015.

Rosemary, Jess and the AWCF teampaws

 

 

An unfortunate and unusual ending for one of the Splinters Pack’s pups.

Unfortunately, we received a report a three days ago that one of our wild dog pups had drowned in a water trough on a neighbouring property. It turned out to be one of the female beta litter pups from Splinters Pack. This is one of the rarer ‘causes of death’ recorded for pups in Save Valley Conservancy, with the majority of pups losing their lives to lion predation.

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Dead female pup from Splinters Pack.

 

A recent count of the major causes of pup mortality

A count of previous major causes of pup mortality.

Wild dogs absolutely love to play in and rest near water, especially during the hotter months of the year! Sadly, Splinters Pack’s recent activity around water had an unfortunate ending. It is hard to imagine what happened; perhaps the pups were playing and jumped up onto the wall of the trough and this pup fell in and just could not get out? The pack was still standing around when the pup was found. Wild dogs have extremely strong social bonds and will often return to a dead pack member’s body for up to two days after their death.

Fortunately, the pack was sighted a few days later, again resting near a pan, and still with a very good number of pups remaining! So far we have 68% pup survival in the conservancy, let’s hope the pups continue to do well during the upcoming rainy season!

Wild dogs love to play in and rest near water

Wild dogs love to play in and rest near water.

Some of the remaining pups gathered under the shade of a tree

Some of the remaining pups gathered under the shade of a tree.

Welcome Golden Mukaro!

One of our key conservation objections is to invest in, and build, local capacity with the ultimate goal of sustained benefits for wildlife and people alike. Every year, as part of this objective, we take on an undergraduate B.Sc. attachment student from National University of Science and Technology (NUST), Bulawayo. The student lives on site with us in Savé Valley Conservancy (SVC) and actively participates in all of our projects, research and field work. They learn about the many challenges of large carnivore conservation and come to understand just what it entails to be a working professional in their chosen career.

This year we welcome Golden Mukaro! Golden earned a Diploma in Education at Masvingo Teachers College, and he has worked for the Ministry of Education Sport and Culture, Zimbabwe for five years. He is now a third year student studying a B.Sc. in Forest Resources and Wildlife Management at NUST. Given his background in teaching, Golden wishes to gain experience in addressing major conservation threats to African wild dogs, and other wildlife, through community education.

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Golden Mukaro, AWCF Attachment Student 2014-2015

Golden has already been out with our CLO, Victor Chibaya, to learn about our schools program, and has been involved in our annual carnivore spoor survey for the past two weeks. See what Golden had to say about his time with the team.

“The spoor survey in SVC has been an exciting one to me, it provides me the opportunity to see wildlife in- situ and experience of spoor identification. Apart from that, I was allowed to actively participate like a full -time employee during the spoor survey.”

“During the spoor survey we had great sightings of the spoor of common animals which included civets and genets and found spoors of the rarer animal species such as the cheetah. During the spoor survey there was much excitement among the team when we encountered one pack of wild dogs which had not seen for the past few months.”

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Golden was our data recorder for the annual carnivore spoor survey 2014

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He showed a real interest in learning about the spoor from head scout, Rueben Bote

Golden is looking forward to his attachment with us, and believes with time and training he will become a huge asset to the organisation. He also has some motivational words for his fellow students completing attachments elsewhere.

“My colleagues studying Forest Resources and Wildlife Management, let’s work towards achieving better results in wild life conservation, focusing mainly on endangered species like African wild dogs. Let’s think about and analyze issues pertaining to the conservation of wildlife without being limited by the conventional constraints of academic boundaries.”

‘True Altruism’

Scarlet, named after one of the big screen’s most beautiful female characters, is one of only two surviving pups from a litter of 11 born in 2013. For the past year we have watched her become an integral and important member of the Mapura Pack.

Scarlet as a pup at the den.

Scarlet as a pup at the den.

On the 20 July 2014 we watched with disbelief as Scarlet dragged her wounded and battered body behind her. The puncture marks and torn flesh characteristic of a failed lion attack. Her back left leg seemed to be broken too.

Her back left leg seemed broken.

Her back left leg seemed broken.


Badly wounded from a lion attack.

Badly wounded from a lion attack.

We kept a close eye on her for the next two days whilst consulting with wildlife vets as to whether or not human intervention would be of any help, and justified? We didn’t think she would survive, but believed that leaving her with her pack was going to give her the best chance of survival. Her pack mates would feed her and keep her wounds clean and, seeing as the pack was still denning, she would be able to rest and try and recover.

Shortly thereafter the dogs left the den, and we struggled to find them for a few weeks. Scarlet’s fate unknown. We finally tracked the pack down and set up cameras at their final den site for the season. What a wonderful surprise to see Scarlet, alive and in good condition, with wounds remarkably well healed! Her back left leg is still broken or injured and seems dysfunctional, but wild dogs can actually cope extremely well on three legs.

Caught on camera, alive and well!

Caught on camera, alive and well!


Well recovered and moving confidently!

Well recovered and moving confidently!

We know that we will be seeing Scarlet around for some time still, and have no doubt that we have her pack mates to thank for that!

Cornflakes, an early morning treat!

It is always exciting to bump into wild dogs, but it’s even more exciting to bump into wild dogs which haven’t been seen for a while!

This morning we were lucky enough to cross paths with Cornflakes. Born in 2008, Cornflakes is a familiar ‘face’ around the conservancy, but hasn’t been seen since her dispersal partner, Tornado, was killed by lions in early June.

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Pack Folder for Tornado and Cornflakes

Tornado and Cornflakes separated from the Mapura pack in December 2013, presumably to look for a group of males and form a new pack. We collared Tornado with a satellite collar on the 02 May 2014, but she was sadly killed by lions just over a month later.

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First spotted in December 2013

We have waited with baited breath to find out how Cornflakes will fair, would we ever see her again, where would she go, would she join up with her old pack?

This morning, just by chance, we saw her. Still alone, but looking healthy and clearly able to fend for herself. Hopefully she stays close to headquarters so we can keep an eye on her, and have a happy ending to this tale of two dogs!

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Sighted this morning looking healthy

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Captured in the beautiful morning light!

Isn’t it wonderful how nature surprises us sometimes…

“Suddenly the grass comes alive with one, two then all seven pups…”

A few days ago, Lin Barrie (friend, professional artist, AWCF supporter and wild dog enthusiast) happened to send through her own personal account of her visits to the Nyarushanga den, in the south of the Savé Valley Conservancy, for our interest. As we read through Lin’s wonderfully detailed and animated account of her time with the dogs, we found ourselves realising what an absolute privilege it is to be able to view and experience African wild dogs like we do, and how we all too often take it for granted.

 

 28 July 2014

Something does not feel right at the Nyarushanga wild dog den, as I listen to only one pup begging food from an adult who has run a grassy area at the base of the towering koptjie, the site behind the den where the dogs seem to have relocated. I have been away from this den for too long, lost my sense of continuity… is there only one pup left? Has some dire fate befallen the other six? Are there still nine adults?

The pups on first emergence

 I arrived here earlier, this late, sunny winter morning to be greeted by silence, the dog den looking deserted and no fresh tracks in the vicinity. If I had been an impatient sort, I would have assumed that the pack had moved on with all the pups, and driven away. But I sat.

My reward for patience, a crackle of grass and the sudden arrival of an adult, well behind the deserted den, followed by greetings between dogs I could not see in the deep grass. Minutes after that another adult trotted over the rocks, head held high , bearing a chunk of fresh meat at least two kilograms in weight! Then I saw one pup rush through the grass, and they both disappeared behind the rocks…the pup ecstatic and twittering with excitement.

 

29 July 2014

All is silent. We sit. And sit. I stare hopefully at the deserted den mound… no pups materialize.

After 30 minutes of patient listening and watching, the sun has started a rapid descent through the Mopani trees. We decide to drive slowly around the back of the den.

Relief! As we circle, there are the telltale satellite ears of an adult lying in the grass, then another, and yet another, peer over a rocky outcrop at us… and suddenly the grass comes alive with one, two then all seven pups, as they head for a termite mound that we have not noticed.

The pack inquisitively watching

The adults nonchalantly stroll close to us, peering at us and acknowledging our arrival but relaxed. Only a soft growl from the unseen but ever vigilant alpha female betrays her position in long grass near to the termite mound. Within minutes the pack has melted away into the cool dusk, hunting for supper while the alpha female remains, cautiously popping her head above the rim of the termite mound. We discover a hole and see the last pup dive down into the depths, only to come out again when called for supper. We will have to leave before then.

Playful pups at the den site!

 

Feeding time and all is calm for a minute or two

Sitting in the gloom, chatting quietly and watching birds prepare for night, I am deeply content. All is well in the Nyarushanga Pack’s world, at least for today. Lions have called distantly every night, an ever present threat for pups and adult dogs alike. But for the moment the den is peaceful, undiscovered and safe!

 

For more on Lin Barrie, her art, and her tales of wild dogs, please visit Lin Barrie’s Facebook page, A Celebration of Painted Wolves: http://www.facebook.com/pages/A-Celebration-of-Painted-Wolves.