Category Archives: Chishakwe Ranch

Hitting the ground running

Hi folks,

Well I’m back in the bush and it’s certainly back to “reality” with a bump.  I arrived back yesterday evening after a 12 hour drive and 3 hours at the border the day before.  I was just starting to unpack when I was interrupted by a crashing in the garden which turned out to be the old bull elephant sneaking in where I had left the gate open, to break my Erthyrna tree.  So rude!

Back inside, I gave up on packing and settled down to catch up on the backlog of emails.  But the elephant must have disturbed a hive of bees because very shortly, the light dimmed as a massive swarm of bees converged on the bare lightbulb in my lounge!  Crazy.  I switched off the light, which just ended up making the bees migrate to the light from my computer screen, so I had to very rapidly evacuate to my bedroom and close the door quickly.  So much for catching up on emails!

This morning brought its own dramas with snared dogs, broken vehicles, political shananigans and attemped rhino poaching!

Anyway, the team has been working hard in my absence and the majority of dog packs are doing well. One adult male, from the Crocodile Pack, has picked up a snare around his head and neck, but when the pack was found today they were up a hill, completely inacessible for darting, and could not be coerced off.  We’ll keep trying and I’ll post news on him and everything else over the next few days

Back soon,


Five Harare Schools visit Chishakwe on a Field Trip (2)

Herewith the second installment of the childrens education camp in the Save Valley Conservancy at Chishakwe Ranch.  After returning from the bush walk, and having a delicious breakfast, Mr Bryce Clements gave the students a riveting and interactive talk on rhinos and rhino anti poaching.  Along with many interesting facts and figures about rhinos, the students were given an insight into the life of an anti-poaching ranger, complete with a demo of a contact with poachers!

Lunchtime was next, interrupted only by the finding of a (harmless) spotted bush snake which caused a great furore and a good deal of interest once it was safely in-hand.

After lunch, our AWCF attachment student, Nobesuthu Ngwenya led a discussion on the importance of wildlife in African culture, including hearing about people’s different totems.  It was a fantastic session, with a lot of enthusiasm and interest:

Next, we held an interactive session about the five large carnivores, demonstrating the differences in their skulls with real skulls and discussing their strengthes relative to humans.  We had kids trying to climb up a few steps carrying another kid of their own body weight (as leopards do up trees), and kids racing against the clock to see if they could beat the cheetah maximum running speed…

Sadly they didnt make it (!) but it emphasized quite how amazing these animals are, relative to us meagre humans.

We then used various sized groups of students to illustrate how much easier it is to catch impala when working as a pack (of wild dogs).  Unfortunately someone then had the bright idea that I should be the impala and the WHOLE group of students should be the wild dogs…..

Suffice to say I was caught and “disembowelled” fairly promptly :)!

We then went on a game drive in different groups.  All four vehicles managed to see wild dogs, which was fantastic, and we also saw lots of giraffe, impala, kudu, wildebeest, baboons, warthogs and even elephants and a hyena.  The students – most of whom had never been to the bush – were stunned and wonderfully excited by everything!

I could go on, but suffice to say an amazing few days was had by all, and we hope it installed a love and respect of the bush and it’s wildlife into many of the students who attended.  Thank you again to Chishakwe Ranch for providing all the accomodation, and for help in so many other ways.

I don’t normally do this, but please, if anyone is able to help us fund trips like this, it would be a massive help.  Everyone involved volunteered their time, but the transport costs, food and supplies all add up, and if anyone thinks they could help support us to cover the costs of this trip, and others in future, please visit or click on the Donate button on this page.  Think how much difference you can help us make to Zimbabwean students!  Thank you.


Five Harare schools visit Chishakwe on a Field Trip

Hi folks,

Last weekend we had 34 students and 7 teachers from five different Harare-based Goverment schools visiting Chishakwe Ranch (where the AWCF field team is based) for a bush camp.  The trip was the prize for the top schools that participated in the Wild Dog Awareness Day at Mukuvisi in August.  They were great kids and we all had a fantastic time.

Early on the first morning, we took them out on a bush walk, in two groups.  This was one of the highlights of the trip, which the kids loved.  By the comments and discussion afterwards it was clear they had learned a lot.  Professional guides Mark Houghton and Mr Bert kindly volunteered their time to allow us to conduct the walks safely and generously shared their immense bush knowledge with the kids.

They learned about trees, tracks, animal behaviour, bush survival, and radio tracking.  Most kids got a turn to try radio tracking a hidden wild dog collar, which was great fun (they didnt know it was just a planted collar!)

Here they learned about crocodiles, water birds, and safety around rivers in the bush:

During a brief “quiet time” after the walk, we asked the kids to write down what they had learned or enjoyed most on the walks.  Many of the answers showed they had really been listening, and all showed that they had enjoyed themselves.  Here are a few examples of what was written:

Since we had a lot of interest in the baobabs and their uses, we took the students to the “Big Tree”.  This is one of the largest baobabs in Zimbabwe, and we are lucky to have it on Chishakwe Ranch.  The kids were awed by it’s size and amazed that it could take all 34 of them holding hands to encircle the base of the tree!

We had lots more other adventures, which I will post about in the next post.  But I would like to say here a huge thank you to Chishakwe for not only providing great accommodatin for students and teachers, but for helping us out with some of their staff, including scouts to accompany us on walks, and their amazing Chef Stanford, who ably handled cooking for 45 people, and produced great meals.

Look out for the next post where we had kids racing cheetah times, working as packs of wild dogs to catch impalas, learning antipoaching tactics and going on game drives!

Back soon,



Wild Dog Education Day in Harare

Hi Folks,

I was up in Harare last week for a series of events at Mukuvisi Woodlands.  Friday 3rd started off with an education day, where the eco-clubs of various different schools were invited to the woodlands to participate in a Wild Dog Awareness Day. We’d done a lot of work to prepare for the day, with our life sized wild dog models (!) and six big posters about various different aspects of wild dog biology and conservation.

We had both primary and secondary schools attending and while the primary schools went round the poster stations, the secondary schools watched a video on wild dogs, before swapping over.

At the end of the day there was a quiz, with 35 students from more than 10 different schools being chosen to come on a field trip to Chishakwe Ranch as a prize.  The prize was much sought after by students and teachers and the winning students were enormously excited about the opportunity to come out to the bush and see the wildlife (and hopefully wild dogs!).  So a HUGE thank you to Chishakwe who are offering free accommodation for the students, enabling this to happen.  (We do still need funds for the bus, fuel, food, support staff etc so if you think you could help, please consider making a donation by clicking here or on the DONATE button on the right hand side of this page).

So overall the day was a huge success, certificates were awarded to all the participating schools and the wild dogs were much sought after for photographs!!

All the students and teachers alike went home with a vastly improved knowledge and understanding of this awesome species and we hope with a love for them which will help see them survive into the next century.

The day with the students was followed by an evening event at Mukuvisi, including Kim Wolhuter’s amazing film ‘A Dog’s Life’ and a short presentation by Kim and myself, during an amazing three course dinner under the stars.  On Saturday afternoon we had another showing of the film, followed by a longer presentation by Kim & I and a question and answer session, which was all very well received.

Altogether it was a great few days for making people aware of what incredible animals wild dogs are and how we can all play our part in helping to protect them and their habitat.

Back soon,



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.




School carnivore projects

Hi folks,

Towards the end of last term, we provided a couple of schools with some materials with which to do big carnivore projects.  This was on request from the teachers after they attended a teacher training workshop organized and hosted  by Chishakwe Ranch, last August.

Today I went to visit the schools to see how the projects had come along.  Whilst still incomplete, I was very pleased by the progress and the obvious effort the students and teachers had put in.  Here are some of the Grade 6 kids with their yet-to-be-completed projects.



Both schools undertook the project with enthusiasm and the quality of their work was very good, largely thanks to the long-term efforts by Chishakwe with these particular two schools, Muvava and Uteki.

Back soon,


Action shots of wild dogs on a kill

Hi folks,

There is no real story to go with these photos, but I think they are quite fun, so I wanted to share them.  This is the Mapura pack on an impala kill, taken by Misheck in mid December.



The Mapura pack is based on Chishakwe Ranch which has a lovely lodge for visitors, so consider a visit and we can take you to see the dogs!

SVC Wild Dog Pack Updates

Hi folks,

We are just managing to catch up with all the wild dog packs in Save Valley Conservancy after a couple of weeks off.  Unfortunately, although sadly predictably, most of the packs have lost at least one pup in the last month or so, but in general pup survival has actually been extremely good.

The Batanai Pack has lost 3 pups in total so far, 2 within the last month.  All adults have survived however, and the pack now numbers 18: 11 adults and 7 pups.

Batanai-09-01-12 (3)

The Bedford Splinter Pack has lost just one pup and now numbers 11; 4 adults and 7 pups.  They’ve done a pretty good job to raise all but one of their pups to this stage, because they are a small pack and it’s only the alpha female’s second litter; her last one she didn’t manage to raise any pups successfully.


The Mapura Pack, the pack whose home range is mainly on Chishakwe Ranch, sadly seems to have lost one adult and one pup since mid December.  They are now 12 in total, 6 adults and 6 pups.

Mapura-10-01-12 (14)

The Pita Pack is still 8 adults – they only formed their pack last year and didn’t den, but we are hoping they will do so this year.

Pita-09-01-12 (18)

I’ll post news on the other packs soon,


The bold and curious – African wild dog pups

Hi folks,

A few weeks ago, I went in on foot to where the Mapura Pack were resting, to try and download the GPS collar.  This accomplished, I continued to see if I could get close enough to count them.  They were still quite far off in relatively thick bush when they became aware we were there…  The adults barked in our direction for a while, but clearly could not actually see where the threat was coming from as both Rueben and I had crouched right down behind some bushes.  So they hung around for a while – growling in our direction from time to time, but for the most part, quite unconcerned.


Eventually they must have seen us, and the adults turned tail and ran….


The pups on the other hand, ran straight towards me, where I was crouched in a bush!  When they saw me, they stopped, and instead of getting a fright and running off in the opposite direction, they kept approaching!  Brave little fellows!  I had to zoom all the way out on my camera to get this photo, they were so close…


However, it wasnt long before they got a sharp reprimand from the adults, whereby they gave me a final curious stare and moved off to join their pack.  What a treat!


A Celebration of Painted Wolves

Dear all,

I am really excited to let you know that we are having a big fundraising and awareness raising event in Harare on the 19th November; see the official invite below.  This is a collaborative event between our Lowveld Wild Dog Project and the Painted Dog Conservation Project in Hwange, together with artist Lin Barrie who paints spectacular wild dog and other wildlife pieces, and Painted Wolf Wines.

Email Invite - Copy

I know that many of you are overseas and wont be able to attend, but if you wanted to participate, we are having a fantastic AUCTION for which we are accepting email bids in adavance!! You can access the auction catalogue by clicking here.  Details for how to bid in advance by email are on page 18.  Prizes include, Lin Barrie’s art, a unique 9L collectors bottle of Painted Wolf Wines, priceless Mavros silver jewellery, and fantastic safaris in the Save Valley Conservancy where we are based, including a stay at Chishakwe Camp and Chishakwe guest house, hosted by myself, with visits to wild dog dens!!!

If you are not interested in bidding, please consider taking this opportunity to show your support for the project and our conservation efforts here in Zimbabwe by making a donation to the project. You can so by clicking on the DONATE button on the top right of this page or by clicking on this link and then clicking Donate.

Thank you in advance