Category Archives: Gonarezhou National Park

Educating, Empowering, Conserving!

It is all too often said that education is fundamental to mobilise change. In our case, it is the building blocks for long-term support of wildlife conservation, and sustainable use of natural resources by local communities.

Local Teachers, Local Heroes

With 89 schools to support around Savé Valley Conservancy, Victor typically only reaches each school once per term, or three times per year. Thus, we ultimately rely on our local teachers to implement our conservation resources and education materials on a day-to-day basis. As such, we recently had a Teachers Feedback Workshop where we evaluated our existing resources with a gathering of local teachers, and discussed what type of resources they would find most useful in the future.

This was a wonderful day where educators came together and shared ideas on how to implement resources into their classes and motivate the children’s interest in wildlife. Ultimately, we want our resources to be user-friendly, compatible with the existing syllabus, helpful and USED by the teachers!


Teachers enjoying themselves at the workshop.


Attachment student, Golden Mukaro, discusses our carnivore posters with the teachers.


Rosemary Groom chairs a collective feedback session at the end of the workshop.


Thank you to the Chiredzi District Education Officer for attending the workshop!


Dressed for Success

Have a look at our revamped vehicle for our Gonarezhou Predator Project education team. Taking wildlife to the people! Not only is the vehicle fun and exciting for the children, but it depicts much of the local wildlife from Gonarezhou National Park, including the iconic Chilojo Cliffs. Ezekia and Anesu, our community education officers for the project, are definitely going to draw the crowds in as they move through the communities, and as such, have plenty of opportunity to educate, empower, and encourage the local people to help conserve!


Ezekia and Anesu, our proud and excited community education officers.

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pangolin, school children, zebra and more…

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An African Fish Eagle soars across the bonnet.

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Of course there are some African wild dogs camped out on the door!


 A Picture says a Thousand Words

It is currently school holidays so Victor has spent the last two weeks busy with our Mobile Education Library in the communities. This is an opportunity for all, young and old, to learn about wild dogs, watch wildlife documentaries and read books and magazines that cover a spectrum of environmental and conservation issues.


Victor addresses a local community about African wild dog conservation.


Why are wild dogs decreasing?


These gatherings are a great opportunity for local people to discuss problems they may be having living alongside wildlife, or local farming problems, and to be provided with sound and practical solutions.


A young man eyes one of our carnivore posters.


Learning about water conservation.


A group of gentlemen discuss the material they have come across.


Three young girls thoroughly enjoying their morning at the AWCF Mobile Education Library!


The DVD’s are a very popular activity and the people will cram themselves into the smallest places to get a brief glimpse of the documentary.


Three older men gather under the shade of a tree to learn more about wildlife conservation.


There is still plenty more to come this year, including another Happy Readers Workshop to provide literacy books to another 10 schools, our leadership and conservation training field trip for our secondary scholars, and cluster competitions between the schools where they will battle it out to show who has the most extensive knowledge of African wild dogs and predator conservation!

Campaigns, Fundraising Crusades and Lazy Dog Days!

2015 has bulldozed its way into action, and what a year it is shaping up to be. For those of you who have been following our Facebook page ( you will know what we are talking about, for those of you who haven’t (PLEASE do, and LIKE our Facebook page too!) here is a little summary…

It really has been a ‘dog’s life’ for our wild dog packs in Savé Valley Conservancy (SVC) and Gonarezhou National Park (GNP). Between the incredible heat, and the scattered pans of water that are just lingering on past the last rains, the few sightings we have had have gone a little something like this…

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Crocodile pack enjoying the shade


Mapura pack relaxing at the waters edge


Inquisitive yearling

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Mbungo pack cooling down


Following the 2014 denning season, we are proud to report healthy numbers in both SVC and GNP and, with this year’s denning season just around the corner (can you believe it!), we are hoping to be reporting strong numbers heading into 2016 too.

However, to safeguard this endangered species we need to not only mitigate the threats inside protected areas, but address potentially fatal edge effects too. We recently helped support and organise a very successful rabies campaign which took place two weeks ago in a community neighbouring GNP. This was in response to reported cases of rabid dogs, and a little girl suspected to have died of rabies at the end of 2014. The campaign took place over three days and 1,042 domestic dogs were vaccinated and treated for worms!


Community members with their dogs


Part of the team in action!


BUT this battle is not over! We are hoping to be able to carry out at least a further three campaigns in key areas surrounding SVC and GNP this year. This is vital to prevent a potentially devastating outbreak of rabies in the local wildlife, to help the domestic dogs and to address a significant human welfare issue. If you would like to contribute, please contact Rosemary Groom ([email protected]) or Jess Watermeyer ([email protected]) and we can send you a little more information on how you can support this very important conservation cause!

Looking ahead at March, and beyond, there are some significant milestones to look forward to. Including a teacher feedback session (to follow up with the teachers in our schools and gather feedback on the resources we are supplying them with, provide additional training etc.), and the launch of our strengthened education program around GNP, as well as the Old Mutual Two Oceans Half Marathon (OMTOM) fundraising event in early April (more on this and how you can support those RUNNING AND RAISING for wild dogs soon).

Cheers for now!


AWCF Community Liaison Officer, Victor Chibaya, hard at work in the communities


The AWCF team and support crew thick into their training for the OMTOM fundraising event


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



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Hi Folk,

I’ll keep this blog up to date as much as I can, but for short regular updates and load of great pictures and stories, please visit and ‘like’ our facebook page:



Happy Readers Literacy Workshop

Hi folks,

As you’ll have seen from the last post, there is an urgent need to improve the literacy levels in rural primary schools in Zimbabwe.  The fact is that most children can barely read by the time they leave primary school (12/13 years old).  What chance will these children have in life??

It’s not their fault – it’s not that they are stupid or don’t pay attention in lessons.  It’s not always the case that the teachers don’t care or don’t know how to teach.  It’s because they have nothing to learn with.  How can you learn to read a book without a book??  And even if you have a book, if you haven’t been taught to read through a proper literacy training program, you cant just pick it up and read it.

Teaching someone to read is no easy job.  And it’s impossible without the right resources.

We have therefore teamed up with Happy Readers to try and do something about this.  We recently provided sets of the nine Level 1 Literacy Books to eight more schools around Save Valley Conservancy and Gonarezhou.

And we then held a workshop to train the teachers in how to use the resource, and why it works.  We had a great representation from the 12 schools that now have the books, and were also honored by the presence of the District Education Officer from Chipinge District and representatives from the Chiredzi and Buhera DEO offices.



Conor O’Beirne from Happy Readers came down to do the workshop:


The teachers listened attentively and by all accounts were thrilled with the concept of the scheme



A game towards the end got everyone involved and showed what fun learning to read can be, when it’s done right:


Finally, it was time for the presentation of the books:

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Malilangwe Trust also bought the books for two of their schools, so in total we were able to hand out books for 10 more schools!  Literacy tests have been conducted in the schools, and we look forward to seeing the progress next year.

Back soon,




Collared wild dog snared in Gonarezhou National Park

Hi folks,

I’m sad to report that we recently found the carcass of one of our collared wild dogs in Gonarezhou National Park.  The young male was called Mowgli and was part of the Machaniwa pack.  It was clear when his carcass was recovered that he had died of a snare wound – the wire was still attached to the neck bones of the carcass.


It’s the second collared dog we have found snared within a couple of kms of the Mozambique boundary, illustrating the potentially significant anthropogenic mortality these dogs are facing in this area.  Obviously we are only finding the carcasses of collared ones, because of the collar signal, but there is little doubt that other individuals are also being killed as well.


The Machaniwa Pack was 7 adults and 7 pups in August last year.  By December, there were only 12.  The same day we found the carcass, we also saw some members of the pack – but only five.  We are hoping this was just a temporary break-away group (it was only last years pups), but otherwise it’s very concerning news for the pack.

Unfortunately, Mowgli was the only collared dog in the pack and so now we face the challenge of fitting another collar to the pack, so we can keep a track of them, and understand more about the threats they face.  Unfortunately that is no small task in that huge, wild area…


Wild dogs in Gonarezhou originate from Save Valley!

Hi folks,

We recently got photos of a pack of wild dogs living in the very south of Gonarezhou National Park.  It was Rueben that saw the pack first and took the photos, and you can imagine my excitement when I looked through them and immediately recognised some of the adults as coming from Save Valley Conservancy!

The pack is 18 dogs; 4 adults, 2 yearlings and 12 pups.  Amazingly, all four adults are from Save Valley Conservancy, about 200km north of where they were spotted!  Three are male siblings who were born in 2009 and disappeared in 2010.  They are Sooty, Flint and Bubbles, and were some of the first dogs I ever got to know when I started working here, so it was SO nice to see them again!  The adult female they are with is named Aludra and was last seen in the south of SVC in 2009.

The pups and yearlings in this pack are absolutely stunning:

A few days later, we managed to get a collar onto this pack, which is fantastic.  We collared Sooty with a satellite collar, so will be able to track the pack’s movements even if they continue their southerly migration into South Africa!

The immobilisation went well, and he recovered nicely and soon joined up with the rest of his pack who were waiting for him a short distance away.

Around this time, some visitors to the park also saw this pack and managed to get a great video of them, interacting with hyenas over a kill.  Have a look at the video by clicking here (courtesy of Media Matrix).

I’ll let you know how the pack gets on.

Back soon,


Amazing encounter: snake eating a frog

Hi folks,

I was at Chipinda Pools recently, the headquarters of the stunning Gonarezhou National Park, and happened to see an amazing wildlife drama played out in front of me.  I was alerted by the sound of the frog chirping, as this beautiful striped bellied sand snake got hold of its leg.  The pictures below tell the story themselves. Nature is just amazing!

Eventually the frog (identified by Simon as a plain grass frog – Ptychadena anchietae) disappeared entirely and the snake, not even looking too bumpy and bulky, slithered off to digest its meal.

Back soon,


African wild dogs in Gonarezhou – Part 2

Hi folks,

Well as I mentioned in the last post, we recently managed to identify at least seven different wild dog packs in the wild and beautiful 5000km2 Gonarezhou National Park.  Here are some photos of some of them:

The Gulugi Pack: 4 adults, 6 pups

The Bopomela Pack: 7 adults

The Chalanda Pack: 9 adults, 9 pups

We managed to fit two collars to the Chalanda pack; one GPS collar and one VHF.  This pack lives right on the Mozambique boundary of the park, in such a remote area it’s unlikely they would have seen more than a handful of people.  They were certainly very wild!   It took us a week of trying all sorts of things, but eventually we got close enough for me to put a dart in. And not just one, but two.  Luck was definitely on our side!

Being able to monitor the pack’s survival and track their movements across into Mozambique will provide us with extremely important information about cross-border movements and threats outside the park.  The collars will also help us understand how they survive where they do, how successfully they raise their pups and if the pack is acting as a source population for areas in Mozambique.

The other pack we managed to collar is the Machaniwa pack, also living right on the Mozambique boundary in the north of the park.  This pack was denning at the top of a big cliff, so we couldn’t get anywhere near them in a vehicle and approaching on foot is hopeless (although we did try a few times – I still ache from climbing that cliff!!).  So we had to make a plan 25C and eventually got a lucky dart in, thanks to a loudspeaker system, sounds of a dying buffalo calf and wild dog hoo call – and the curiosity of the dogs!  We’ve called him Mowgli.

I’m heading back into the park tomorrow, and will hopefully have more news on some of the other packs when I come out again next week.

Back soon,




African wild dogs in Gonarezhou – Part 1

Hi folks,

As you know, I’ve spent most of the last two months working in Gonarezhou National Park, right in the south east corner of Zimbabwe, trying to get a better understanding of the park’s wild dog population.  I haven’t yet done any proper data analysis or fancy statistics, but just from what we have seen, it seems the population there is doing really well.  Which is just great, and very exciting!!

It’s not an easy place to work, and the relative scarcity of roads, abundance of stroppy elephants, rough terrain and restricted water availability all make it quite a challenge to do anything there, let along track wide ranging wild dogs.

Nonetheless, luck was on our side, and in the last couple of months we have recorded at least seven different wild dog packs – almost certainly nine – and have even managed to collar a couple of the packs.  I’ll post about that in installment 2, but here is a summary of what we have found so far.

Despite starting relatively late in the denning season, we managed to find the den sites for five different packs, and photographed two others.   Interestingly, the dens of two packs were in caves on rocky hillsides or cliffs;

At three of the dens, the pups were still very small when we found them, as these camera trap pictures show;

We were able to spend some time at the den of one of the packs, the Chalanda Pack, and I managed to get these photos of their pups – there are nine in total, and they are very bold, playful little fellows:

Of the seven packs we have confirmed, six have been in the northern half of the park.  The den of the seventh pack we found when we were finishing off the spoor survey in the south of the park, and evidence suggests it is certainly not the only pack down there; we just ran out of time to keep looking!  We put camera traps up at the den and I will be checking that next week.  At this stage we have no idea of the number of adults or the number or age of pups in that pack, but hopefully should have news on them soon.

So, lots of large, healthy, successfully breeding packs of wild dogs in Gonarezhou, which is wonderful.  I’ll post more on the other packs and our collaring efforts in the next post.

Back soon,