2013 was a challenging year for the AWCF as far as our conservation efforts were concerned. Poaching for the bush meat trade meant there were more snares in the field than we’ve ever seen before. Despite the renewed pressure this put the dogs (and in fact all species!) under, we saw a good breeding season (from late May up until September) ,with lots of seriously cute pups running around the Savé Valley Conservancy (SVC), as can be seen from this endearing sequence of pics captured by our camera trap of a mom and her pups leaving the den for a spot of early morning “bush school”.
We conducted a successful field amputation on Flame, a year and a half old male, born into the Mapura Pack. One day our scouts observed that Flame seemed to have sustained a bad break in several places below the knee of his hind leg. (Wild dogs can suffer broken legs during hunting accidents or from failed attacks by lions and generally cope, heal and manage quite well if left alone.) We are always reluctant to interfere, unless the injury is of human origin (a snare injury or a wild dog hit by a car, etc.) We monitored Flame and saw his condition deteriorate over the weeks. He was losing weight and was no longer active within the pack. We consulted wildlife veterinarians as to the possibility of the break healing and Flame making a full recovery, but none could provide us with that certainty.
We were fortunate to have a wildlife capture team working in Savé Valley Conservancy during the last few weeks of September and we were able to organise for the resident wildlife veterinarian, Jacqueline Mostert, to have a look at Flame’s injury. It was decided that amputating the leg, which had just become dead weight, would give Flame the best chance of survival. It was fortunate that the Mapura pack were denning again so allowing Flame the time to heal and gather his strength
On the 07 October 2013, Flame’s leg was amputated in an operation lasting almost three hours! It is one of the rare times an amputation has taken place in the field and we must commend Jacqueline Mostert on her skill and professionalism whilst working in such unusual conditions.
We continued to monitor Flame for the next few weeks and watched him go from strength to strength. These days he moves as if he was born on three legs, covering vast distances with the rest of the pack and he is often seen playing with the pups. We eagerly watch to see how this story unfolds and what lies in store for Flame.
For any organisation monitoring and protecting wildlife, the death of an animal is always a terribly sad occasion. Death by natural causes is one thing but it’s the senseless, wasteful and often cruel deaths of our animals due to human misadventure that really hits home hard. Lions and indiscriminate snaring by poachers for bush-meat continue to be the greatest threats to wild dogs (and other carnivores) in the south-east of Zimbabwe (aside, of course, from habitat loss and fragmentation).
- R.I.P – CLAW. The alpha female of the Mambira Pack. Claw was a longstanding inspiration to local artist Lin Barrie who followed the pack’s development and movements passionately. The cause of Claw’s death was never determined (suspect snake bite, possibly Mamba).
- R.I.P – FORAX. The alpha female of the Mapura Pack. She was killed by lions.
- R.I.P – TICK. Tick was one of the oldest dogs in the Savé Valley– if not the oldest. Tick was also killed by lions. While still a great loss, Tick’s death provided us with the opportunity to learn more about the biology of wild dogs and his skull will be used for education purposes amongst our local community schools, so his legacy lives on.
R.I.P. We lost another five adult wild dogs to snares set up by a bush meat syndicate and one pup from a vehicle collision accident. We’ll be focusing heavily on drawing the media’s attention to indiscriminate poaching syndicates in the coming months so look out for us and support our efforts to keep the remaining packs of Africa’s wild dogs safe from human harm!