Obviously an important part of the conservation-research component of our holistic African wild dog conservation project is being able to locate the packs! With home ranges up to 3,500 sq km, thick vegetation and tracks (footprints) obscured for much of the rainy season, the use of tracking collars is a vital tool.
Most of the packs in one of our focal study areas, the Save Valley Conservancy, are collared, but we aim to try and get at least two collars on each pack in case of death or disappearance of the collared dog, failure of the collar, or in case of dispersal of some of the pack.
Yesterday we had an opportunity to fit a second collar onto one of our study packs, known as the Splinters. The dogs were very relaxed as the vehicle approached, and I darted an adult female with no trouble.
She jumped up as the dart hit, then moved off only a short distance before sitting down with two pack mates in the shade. Slowly she succumbed to the effects of the drugs and drifted off to sleep, with the other dogs right there with her:
The pack stayed around:
And one of the youngsters even came over to investigate the dart:
The immobilization and collaring procedure went very well. A pulse-oximeter recorded blood oxygen and heart rate which remained at good levels throughout. Regular temperature checking and cooling with water, together with an ice pack (frozen bottle of water!) between the legs ensured she never became too hot.
We fitted the collar, took samples and measured physical characteristics and teeth.
It was a good experience for our attachment student Nobesuthu, who learned about all aspects of the collaring procedure. Scouts Rueben and Misheck were there to lend a hand as well.
We administered the reversal, and she recovered well.
Just after we took this photo, the rest of the pack came back (they had been lying close by throughout) and they moved off together after an endearing display of re-bonding.