Author Archives: Paula

Resilient wild dogs recover from injuries

Hi folks,

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about the wild dog pack that had run through a snare line: one dog had been killed, one suffered a deep, horrific injury round his neck from the snare wire, and one chewed his own leg off to get out of the snare…

I managed to dart the one with the snare around his neck and remove the wire and treat the wound, but could do nothing for the other one, except monitor his condition and be prepared to request for permission to euthanase him if necessary.

However, despite that terrible disability, we were amazed to see the dog remaining in good condition and keeping up with the pack.  The wound has continued to heal and there are no signs of infection.

The dog which I treated is also doing really well.  The wound will take a long time to close up completely, but at least with the wire off (and not cutting any deeper) it will have a chance to do so.  He is also looking in good condition and keeping up with the pack.  The wound is spotlessly clean, thanks to the administrations of his fellow pack members, and I am confident he will recover fully in time.

So so far so good, and fingers crossed they will continue to do well.

Nothing about dogs

Hoe gaan dit, mense,

Hmmm. In spite of my not being in Zimbabwe and not having much previous experience with wild dogs to draw on, it appears I am still the person to write the blogs.
So, if you want to read anything about wild dogs I suggest you look at another blog now.

If you’re interested in long and tedious stories about shopping for tyres, inverters, kitchenware and vehicle accessories, then this is the page for you! Any personal details concerning me and my current situation are classified.

After two weeks in South Africa I have managed to buy or order almost everything that was on our project list, with varying degrees of accuracy. The most important thing is that we’ve now got new, bigger and stronger tyres. As much as I liked starting the day changing a flat tyre, I’m hoping it won’t happen again for a long time.
I was going to use the webcam on my laptop (my camera is in Zim) to take a picture of the new tyres on the vehicle and then I realised they look exactly the same as the old ones, which made the whole exercise a bit pointless.

I’m staying in Pretoria and so enjoying the availability and choice of items, currency that doesn’t devalue in your pocket, constant electricity and water supply and a fairly up-to-date cinema. Even the inevitable human contact is bearable, although thankfully limited by my being an Engelsman in a mainly Afrikaner city. I don’t know, you kill 20,000 of their women and children in concentration camps and they still bear a grudge. Come on guys, if you can’t take a joke, you shouldn’t be in Africa.

Well, that’s the blue touchpaper lit, so I’ll retire now. More exciting adventures soon.

Bly lekker,

Mike

In exile

Howzit guys,

Sorry for the huge delay in the wild dog updates. However, I still can’t provide you with any new dog info.

This is due to the fact that I have had my residency cancelled by Zimbabwe immigration and so am now in South Africa trying to sort out visas, etc.

While I’m stuck in South Africa though, I’m spending your generous donations on equipment for the car and other bits and pieces that it is either impossible, or too expensive to buy in Zim. Thanks particularly to Nancy A and the anonymous donors that have recently contributed to the project. Your money is being put to good use.

Sarai zvakanaka,

Mike

We can’t track!

Howzit guys,

Well, we’re still waiting to get murdered in our beds, but some people are just so unreliable.

Rosemary is really getting stuck into the dog project and it’s good to have someone to show me how these things are supposed to be done! She has previously done a similar sort of thing with lions in Kenya and that experience has put her in good stead for this work to say the least. When she has finished her initial workload, she will be able to contribute to the blogs as well.

As the trackers are away on leave, we have decided to look for the collared packs. Yesterday, we found the Maera pack although we had to almost completely circle them until we could find a way in to get to them. They were in a wooded area that we really had to bash through and, with all the stumps and fallen logs, etc. it was a miracle we didn’t incur any punctures. We’ll probably make up for that in the next few days though!

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Today, we hope to locate the Mavericks pack in the south. We know where they were yesterday, so hopefully they haven’t gone too far and are still in that area.

Sarai zvakanaka,

Mike

Still progressing

Howzit guys,

Sorry for the late post. We are all still here and all waiting to see what happens with the elections, like most of the country’s population.

Last week we were concentrating on finding a pack of five dogs that were being reported near our new base. It was hazardous following them because the first two times the guys were tracking them, they led them straight into elephant herds with very protective mothers!

We finally found three of them resting at a waterhole and we heard the other two calling nearby. We waited for them to show up but, after an hour, they still hadn’t appeared and our presence was preventing other animals from drinking.
One wildebeest bull was more concerned with the dogs though, as their being there was spooking his herd. He put his head down and advanced towards the dogs who weren’t too happy about this turn of events and scattered. They settled down behind a bush about 75 metres away, but the wildebeest seemed satisfied with this distance. We decided to leave everyone in peace and headed off.

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‘What is that animal doing?’
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‘Scarper!’

We hope to find the full group of five once we can get started on the dogs again.
The fieldwork team are taking their (much needed) days off this week, so you’ll be hearing from me after then.

Sarai zvakanaka,

Mike

Maningi Maphumi

(Plenty of wild dogs)

Howzit guys,

We are still going strong. One day last week, Reuben and Misheck found two packs in the same day!
One was an unidentified group of five dogs, but they wisely decided to stop tracking them when they started running into elephants in the thick bush.
The other pack we suspect to be the Saindota Pack (named after the river that runs through their range), but they were so wary that we couldn’t get close enough to take any pictures or even count them. Rascals!

People have really been great with calling in their sightings recently. I guess they can hear us on the radio when we’re following up their reports, and so know they aren’t wasting their time. It is a huge help to have all those extra eyes out there for us.

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Gratuitous picture of elephants raiding crops.

I am moving to a house in the north today, which will help with getting to the dog sightings quicker. I’ll warn you in advance then, that my blogs may not be as frequent as before as I won’t have internet access there. Fear not though, Peter will be able to fill you in if I can’t.

A new member of our team, Rosemary, arrives from the UK next week as the project manager. She has already done much for the project, securing funding for VHF and GPS collars, among other things. No doubt she’ll be pressganged into writing a few blogs too, including an introduction.

Sarai zvakanaka,

Mike

Another pack found

Howzit everyone,

Well, the run of luck continues. We (meaning Reuben and Misheck) found another pack today. I’ve managed to match up one individual, so I’m hazarding a guess that this is the ‘Bridges’ Pack. One more located!

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They’re looking at the car. But I’m not in the car….

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‘What are you grinning at?’

Yesterday, I went to the south of the conservancy on my own, to try to locate the Mavericks Pack. As one of them is collared, I thought I would be able to pick them up quite easily. I thought wrong. I’d driven around and climbed several small hills but I still couldn’t recieve their signal.
I also spent some time as the guest of a particularily soft patch of muddy road. Still, nothing an hour of lugging rocks, digging with hands and copious swearing couldn’t sort out.
The pack may have temporarily left the boundaries of the conservancy but, due to my unscheduled ‘rest’ stop, it was too late for me to search in that direction. I’ll look for them again in a few days.

Thanks to those of you who made the effort to vote on the new pack’s name. Humani it is then. Who says there won’t be a fair election in Zimbabwe this year?!

Sarai zvakanka,

Mike

Got ‘em!

Howzit guys,

Can you believe it? A ZWD blog that isn’t about failure, hoping to find the dogs next week, unsuitable weather conditions, or other feeble excuses.

Yes, we have actually found dogs… for three days in a row! Ok, it’s all the same pack, but it’s the one we’ve been looking for for weeks. We had been patrolling their area for ages but we just couldn’t find spoor. As we were just about to stop using that route, we found some. Then came the rain, which didn’t help, but a few days later we picked them up again. The first time, they were lying up in tyre-and-paintwork-punishing mopane scrub and we couldn’t get to them in the car. We tried to get close on foot but they always saw us before we saw them.

Yesterday, we found them resting in the shade, on a bank of the Mokore River. They were on the opposite side of the river, but this gave us a better view of them. The coat patterns matched those from older photos, which confirms this as the Jacana Pack.

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A day at the beach.

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Bath time.

This morning, I received a radio call telling me that they had just been seen around the same area. With Reuben and Misheck searching for packs elsewhere, I set out on my own, hoping the dogs hadn’t gone too far as I doubted an attempt at tracking would be successful. By luck, they were visible from the road, lying around a pan. The area was open and so I could drive closer to them. I kept my distance at first, to let them get used to the vehicle, before creeping closer in a wide zig-zag (a direct approach normally unnerves them).
My reward was to spend a couple of hours relaxing in their company, listening to the birds and watching the dogs as they dozed. God, it’s Hell in Africa!

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How many dogs in this picture?

Only two days left to vote before a name is decided for the new pack. It looks like ‘Humani’ is winning hands down so far. Sorry for that, Reuben!

Sarai zvakanaka,

Mike

Another thrilling week

Howzit guys,

Hmmm, I see that our blog’s comment sections have been targeted by spammers. I’ll continue purging their ever-so-interesting comments whenever I can.

Not much happening on the dog front at the moment. I hope this doesn’t keep up, or I’ll be forced to regale (read as: bore) you with off-topic stories of previous experiences in Africa.

We have had a light smattering of rain over the past few days. This usually stops the dogs from ranging too far (they don’t like the wet grass) but it also obscures or erases their tracks. We were hoping they would use the roads more but, if they are, they aren’t the roads we’re looking on.

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If only we saw these more often. No, not pens.

The scouts have just moved base, slightly ahead of schedule, to the ranch in the north and I plan to follow them as soon as my accommodation there is ready. We’ve managed to get our hands on a motorbike, which means we can search different areas simultaneously, greatly increasing our coverage.

We still need to decide the name for the new pack. I am using ‘Humani’, after the ranch they inhabit, but Reuben wants to be more specific and suggests ‘Gomo’, the ChiShona word for hill/mountain, as he says they prefer to frequent that habitat.
Therefore, I am opening up this decision to you guys. Whichever of these two names has the most votes by next Tuesday (25th March) will be the winner. Feel free to get your friends, relatives, lovers, parole officers, etc. to sign on and vote too.

Sarai zvakanaka,

Mike

Back on the case

Howzit guys,

Don’t worry, we’re back. We’ve just had a few days off but now we’re all ready and raring to go.

It’s bizarre how we can spend days searching for the dogs without even seeing one pawprint, and then we find some without even trying.
For the past two days, we have located the new pack (provisionally christened, the Humani pack, after the area they occupy) within twenty minutes of setting off. UTM / Arc1950 36K 415431:7741236 and 413184:7742737, map fans!
Although our intitial sightings are on roads, they are currently using very dense, and pointy, riparian vegetation to rest up in. This is too thick to for the car to get through, so we follow them on foot (did I mention it was pointy?), as I am trying to see if the snared female has hooked up with them. Unfortunately, due to the thick bush and the amount of doggy eyes scanning for intruders, we cannot get close enough to determine if that is the case. If we disturb them twice, we leave them in peace, rather than keep pushing them. We will just have to bide our time until we find them in a place that is accessible by vehicle.

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Misheck and Reuben stand at ease.

The other packs are as elusive as ever. We have received reports of sightings, but we are usually too far away and by the time we get there, it will be too late to begin tracking. As the sun gets higher, the shadows cast in prints diminishes and they cease to stand out, unless they are on really soft terrain.
In early April, we will be based on a more central ranch in the north of the conservancy so we should be able to respond to calls much sooner. The north has all but two of the known packs in the conservancy, so we should be kept busy, especially during the upcoming denning season.

Sarai zvakanaka,
Mike