Category Archives: Carnivores general

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.


School children proud of their Lowveld ABC cards!


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


Rueben tracking wild dogs in Gonarezhou National Park

To view the full newsletter please visit our Facebook page ( 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 (!

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.


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



“I learnt from the best” – AWCF Attachment Student Shares Her Experience

Hi all,

This is truly an inspiring read. Nobesuthu Ngwenya, a student at the National University of Science and Technology, spent a year with AWCF and the Lowveld Wild Dog Project learning all about field-based conservation of large carnivores in south-east Zimbabwe. Below is what she has to say about her experience. It is truly encouraging to read about her time with AWCF, and how she has come to have an enriched understanding of wildlife conservation and an appreciation for natural resources. It was a pleasure having Nobesuthu as part of the AWCF team and we wish her only the very best in all her future endeavours!


Time moves very fast, it’s already been a year and attachment year is over. It’s been a great experience working with AWCF. I have learnt a lot in the project and had the feel of the real working environment.

 I am very grateful to Dr Rosemary Groom for giving me the opportunity to join the project and for all that I know about wildlife in the field today. She also made it possible for me to do my project with AWCF. If it weren’t for her guidance and persistent help, my attachment and project would not have been a success. Special thanks to the AWCF team, the scouts and the community liaison officer, who never got tired of helping me and answering all the questions I had with my first experience in the field.

 Working with AWCF, I learnt a lot about conservation and wildlife management and with no doubt, I will carry the flag of conservation wherever I go and share it, especially in my country, where many people do not understand the need to conserve and protect our wildlife and resources.


 I enjoyed every moment with the lowveld wild dog project all that was there to learn, from data collection, game count, education outreach programs, wild dog tracking, de-snaring and darting, collecting blood and tissue samples, vehicle and motorbike maintenance, workshops, human and wildlife conflicts. I learnt a lot so much that if I were to list it all, the whole web will be filled up.

 To mention a few exciting moments; we had darted a snared wild dog to remove the snare. The procedure went well and I was given the chance to learn how to inject the anti-dote. It was so exciting as it was the first time I ever held an injection.


I also had my first experience of sleeping in the tent whilst at Gonarezhou National Park, tracking for wild dogs. We had wild cats coming close to the tents…this was scary but something worth experiencing… Then finally, the indescribable period of the denning season, the most remarkable wild dog pups, though there were devastating moments when they faced predation by lions and hyenas.

 There were also pressing situations which I learnt a lot from, especially pertaining to human and wildlife conflicts. There were situations were domestic animals from villages around the conservancy were preyed on by wild dogs, and such situations had to be dealt with diplomatically. It was just amazing how little people knew about wildlife in the surrounding villages. They had no knowledge about wild dogs and did not understand their importance in the wild.


 To sum up my attachment period, I must say, a conservationist mind has been created in me, and I am proud to say that, I learnt from the best.


Lions plague denning African wild dogs

Wild dogs in the Savé Valley Conservancy face great challenges from their greatest competitors, lions and hyenas. The denning season is when the effects on the wild dog population are most visible.

This pack of four dogs (split from the Batanai pack of 30 at the beginning of the denning season) has been disturbed by lions at their den from the time they started denning. On the 1st of June when we went to set up camera traps at the den, we found a dead young male lion, with most of its body in the hole where the pups and the alpha female were!!

dead lion at den_1 June 2013


This lion was suspected to be a lone individual, separated from the pride and could have been looking for easy prey. We managed to pull out the lion carcass with the help from the guys from Sango Ranch.

Clearing off dead lion

Dead lion after being pulled out


To our relief, the alpha female wild dog jumped out of the hole and ran off as we drove away.  We have yet to see the fate of pups, but mum being alive and well is a good sign….  We are just praying that the lion wasn’t sick and hasn’t transmitted any disease to the wild dogs.  We’ll be keeping a very close eye on them.

More on lions at this den site coming soon!

Look what we spotted …


Out on an early morning walk recently this little dwarf mongoose was spotted ferreting around an ant hill. Dwarf mongooses are carnivores. Interestingly, a dwarf mongoose can have a home range that can cover up to 75 acres – that’s a big area for a relatively small animal! They are gregarious and territorial, often found in groups of up to 15 mongooses. There is a hierarchy within these groups, with a dominant pair at the top which are usually the oldest. Found in most parts of Africa, they don’t have a particular preference for habitats, being quite content in both forests and then semi-arid areas. They often live inside termite mounds like the one in the photos and they are diurnal.

Taking a look outside.

Taking a look outside.

Their scientific name is Helogale parvula, and they can range from 8 to 12 inches in length. Their small size is how they derive their name, as they are the smallest species of mongoose and are one of Africa’s smallest carnivores. They can live to up to 8 years and their main predators are snakes and birds of prey. All members of the group help with raising pups and guarding them against predators. Females born into the group usually stay and move up in rank as they age, but males will disperse and start new groups. Dwarf mongooses breed in the wet season and can have up to three litters at a time. Usually only the dominant female becomes pregnant, however, if conditions are good some of the subordinate females may also reproduce. Initially the young remain underground in termite mounds and are guarded by a member of the band whilst the others go off hunting.

Just checking the coast is clear!

Just checking the coast is clear!

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Song of the Carnivores – 2nd performance at Intwasa

Hi folks,

You may remember a post a while ago about a spectacular musical performance in Bulawayo – the Song of the Carnivores.  The whole program involved music, song, poetry, art and educational lectures – all about the magnificant five large carnivores of Zimbabwe.  But it was the overall musical and choral performance of “The Song” which was the focus of the event last May.

Due to the fantastic success of the first performance, a second performance was held last week at the Old City Hall in Bulawayo.  I was super-excited to be able to attend this time, as I hadn’t been able to go to the last performance.

Once again it was truly spectacular show, and thanks must go to the British Council and to Dr Netty Purchase of the Rangewide Program for Cheetah and Wild Dog in southern Africa for all they did to make it happen.

Amongst other distingished guests to attend the performance was Zimbabwe’s minister of sports, arts and education, David Colthart, who opened the performance with a great motivational speech.

Many different schools participated in this performance and it was a truly spectacular show- made all the more wonderful by the fact that it was so directly about conservation of the five large carnivores.  This performance had a great educational narration between each verse, beautifully done by high school students, and if there is anything that is going to get the conservation message into a large group of young minds, this was it!

The afternoon also saw a display of many of the pieces of art that had been submitted in the art competition (some of which showed a fantastic talent), as well as poetry readings of the winning poems and a shorter series of talks about the five carnivores (we did the wild dog one).

Excitingly, the Song of the Carnivores will be performed again in London, UK, in November at an event at London Zoo, where Usain Bolt will be the guest of honour!!  He has agreed to be the official spokesman for cheetah conservation and everyone is thrilled that this project is to be taken to these levels.

Thanks again to all those great people and organisations that made this happen.


Lions vs Wild Dogs

Hi Folks,

I’m just back from another 3 week field stint in Gonarezhou which I will write about soon.  But I just wanted to post some of these photos of lions that were seen at the Mapura den on Chishakwe Ranch in Save Valley Conservancy a few weeks ago.  It was a pride of 7 lions, who visited the den a couple of times.  Here are some of the curious youngsters investigating the den hole where the pups sleep.

Fortunately all the pups survived, but one of the pack’s adult males (probably the alpha male) was unfortunately killed. He was found a couple of hundred meters from the den.

Nonetheless the pack seems to be holding together okay.  They have two litters of pups but are no longer den bound, so I’m not sure how the little ones will do.  Just hope they don’t meet these lions again any time soon!

Back soon,



Song of the Carnivores – Amazing, amazing event!

Hi folks,

A while ago I posted about this fantastic musical event being held in Bulawayo to celebrate the five large carnivores.  The project has been two years in the making, involving 10 local schools and over 500 children, and the first performance of the song was just spectacular!

The event was officially opened by the Mayor of Bulawayo and the British and Australian Ambassadors to Zimbabwe also attended.

All agreed it was a perfect way to raise awareness of the animals, as well enhancing the music ability of the children, and the capacity of their music teachers.

Sadly, the project is almost over in Zimbabwe, with a final all encompassing afternoon event planned for the Intwasa Festival where the poetry and art submitted by children over the last 18months will be displayed and performed, a choral version of the music performed and visiting experts will give talks to the public about the five species.

But, fortunately, it wont end there!  There is now a performance of the music planned for October in the UK, being organized by the Range Wide Programme for cheetah and wild dog conservation.  We are hoping all this will help to raise the profile of these two unique species – something they very much need and deserve.

Full credit for all of this goes to Dr Netty Purchase, Southern African coordinator of the Range Wide Program, an incredibly energetic and resourceful person.

Have a look at this link on YouTube for a short video of the Song of the Carnivores…


School scholarhips

Hi all,

As one of the strands of our multidimensional environmental education program, we provide secondary school scholarships to students from the primary schools we work in around the Save Valley Conservancy.  In order to try to maintain the link between the scholarships and our wildlife conservation efforts we call these “Predator Scholars”.  Each year we give five new scholarships out, each one for full expenses for the full six years of secondary school.

All the students we support are from very poor homes and would not be able to remain in school without the support of these scholarships.

I went to visit the scholars the other day, to see how they were doing and check on their progress with the head teachers.  I was pleased to find most of them with good results and getting good reviews from teachers.

Below is Melody Makeyi with her scholarship certificate in the headmasters study.  And below that is myself with Talent Muonde, our leopard scholar attending Kushingiriri Secondary School.  Talent was at Muvava Primary, the school supported by Chishakwe Ranch, where she also received a primary school scholarship from Chishakwe.  She is extremely bright and we hope she will go far in her life and career.

As the program develops, we hope to include these students in other aspects of our project in order to foster the link between the scholarships and conservation and also to give them some exposure to possible careers in the wildlife sector.

I’ll let you know how they all do as time goes on.  If anyone would like to sponsor a student through secondary school, either fully or partially, please make a donation by clicking on the DONATE button on the right hand side of this page, or by visiting the African Wildlife Conservation Fund education project site.




Song of the Carnivores – Spectacular performance at the Bulawayo Music Festival

Hi folks,

Sorry I’ve been quiet for a while. I’ve been at a wild dog symposium in Namibia and only just back.  On the way back I stayed the night in Bulawayo and had the great privilege to attend a rehearsal of a fantastic performance being put on at the Bulawayo Music Festival on Thursday.  This is an initiative called Song of the Carnivores – and is the culmination of months of hard work by a fantastic team of people.

The Rangewide Program for cheetah and wild dog in southern Africa, the Bulawayo Academy of Music and the British Council have teamed up to help produce an amazing musical extravanganza.  Involving 500 children from Bulawayo, the Song of the Carnivores is a half an hour piece of music, composed and organised by composer Richard Sisson and sung by local school kids, which captures the characters of all the five large carnivore species in Zimbabwe.

At the rehearsal I went to, seeing the song, with it’s beautiful lyrics, sung by hundreds of students actually brought tears to my eyes.  The lyrics and composition are spectacular and the whole program has had incredible education benefits to all students involved.

So if anyone is in Bulawayo on Thursday, you absolutely must go and see this performance.  And even if you aren’t in Bulawayo – make a plan to get there! It will be the highlight of your year!  It’s at the Large City Hall in Bulawayo at 5:00pm on Thursday 24th and costs only $2.  It’s a must-see and all part of the Zimbabwean carnivore conservation effort.

More on it after the event.