Category Archives: Other wildlife

Game at the dens

Hi all,

During denning season we have lots of camera trap photos to sort through and label, and often we come across some interesting photos of other animals. We have seen photos of zebra, elephant, porcupine and warthog to name a few. Many people believe that wild dog dens drive away their game, but it is clear from these photos that this is not the case!

Aardvark

Aardvark

Banded mongoose

Banded mongoose

Civet

Civet

Warthog

Warthog

Zebra

Zebra

Becky

Education and wild dogs

Hello,

Helen here. I have been out visiting several primary schools which border onto the conservancy talking to teachers about the environmental education project. Although it is now the winter holidays, at each school I visited, several teachers met me to chat further. Many of the teachers had heard about the wild dogs and knew that they were endangered here in Zimbabwe. They were very keen to visit the conservancy themselves and see the wildlife here as well as hopefully see wild dogs, maybe at a den. It is great that the local schools and communities are so interested and enthusiastic in learning more about what goes on here.

 

Teachers from local primary school

Teachers from local primary school

Smiling school children

Smiling school children

The  school term starting in September is full of national exams so we shall hopefully start the programme properly next year with a teacher training workshop on environmental education here on Chishakwe. We are looking to initiate a long term programme of education and school visits which will benefit the people living close to the conservancy as well as wildlife such as the wild dog and rhino which live in Save Valley.

Helen

Conservation Education Programme

Hi everyone,

I thought it might be time to introduce myself. I’m Helen and I’m here with the Lowveld Wild Dog Project helping to establish a conservation education programme, in collaboration with Chishakwe Ranch and the Lowveld Rhino Trust.

Helen looking for tracks and signs at a water hole

Helen looking for tracks and signs at a water hole

We are mainly concentrating on educating people about the importance of maintaining biodiversity.  Chishakwe Ranch has been working in schools bordering the Save Valley Conservancy for several years now, and we will be parterning with them to expand their fantastic education efforts and to focus a bit on wild dogs, as there seems to be so many misconceptions about these beautiful creatures.

I have recently been to visit one of these schools with the Chishakwe managers, where I helped to judge a food-web poster project. The children were very excited and enthusiastic about leaning more about their surroundings and the natural world. The students who created the ten best posters will be coing to visit the conservancy in September for the day, and they will get to see wildlife up-close rather than just on paper.

One of the winners of the food-web poster project

One of the winners of the food-web poster project

At the moment there are many ideas for this education programme including a bush school and an education centre. During my time here I hope to help with the implementation of some of these ideas and establish a mutually beneficial relationship between local communities and the conservancy.

Helen

Gonarezhou Predator Survey – Part 2

Hi folks,

I’m back from the park now, having completed the spoor survey.  I’ve yet to do the offical data analysis, but, as expected, we found very little evidence of lions, but plenty of sign of spotted hyena and leopards.  Excitingly we did find wild dog tracks in quite a few different places, suggesting the existence of at least 3 if not 4 different packs of dogs in the park.

Here are some more photos to illustrate my last week…

If you’ve gotta do data entry, there are worse places to be I think…

Office spot on top of the Chilojo Cliffs

Office spot on top of the Chilojo Cliffs

And likewise for somewhere to camp – not a bad view!

Camping spot

Camping spot

The park in general has some spectacular scenery…

Kundani hill

causeway at sunset

Chilojo cliffs from top view point

And some interesting driving conditions too… This is us crossing the Runde River at the Madawo causeway!

driving through the causeway

And lastly there is always some interesting wildlife around…

Porcupine

Madara

The photo above is of the old lion I collared in October last year.  He is at least 12 years old (which is OLD for a lion!), but is still doing well.  Although we never saw any other lions with him, the tracks indicate there is a lioness around as well who is probably helping him hunt.

I’m now back in the conservancy, and will post an update on the wild dogs soon

Black rhino photographed by Misheck

The Save Valley Conservancy in south-east Zimbabwe, where the wild dog project is based, supports a huge diversity of wildlife, including all of the “Big Five”. We have a fair number of rhinos in the conservancy, both black and white, and from time to time we are lucky enough to see them while we are out in the bush looking for the wild dogs.

Black rhino

Black rhino

Quite often Rueben or Misheck will come across them; both carry small digital cameras and take photos of any rhino they see to help the rhino monitors. These are photos of a black rhino taken by Misheck (who was safely up a tree at the time!)

Black rhino browsing

Black rhino browsing

Black rhino - photo by Misheck

Black rhino - photo by Misheck

You can clearly see the hooked upper lip that is the most obvious distinguishing feature of a black rhino (white rhinos, which are grazers, have very square upper lips).

Interestingly, whilst black rhinos are slightly more endangered than wild dogs, there are about four-five times more white rhino left in Africa than there are wild dogs. We all need to do more to raise the profile of wild dogs, so they engender as much international interest and conservation action as the rhinos do.

How your donations in 2009 helped the wild dogs and other wildlife in Zimbabwe

Hi folks,

Before the year continues to run away with us, I wanted to let you all know how your donations were used in 2009.  Altogether the project received about $2800 which we used mainly to buy drugs (and associated accessories) to help to de-snare wild dogs or help other wildlife, such as this buffalo calf which we rescued from a slow and agonising death caught in a snare.

A buffalo calf caught by a snare around his back left leg

Just one bottle of the main drug used to immobilise herbivores costs $575, so we were very grateful for the donations that allowed us to purchase this.  We still have plenty left for this year as well.  Fortunately, all the other drugs are much cheaper, and we spent a further $1000 buying carnivore immobilisation drugs, reversal drugs, human-antidote drugs, antibitoics, antihelmintics etc.  We spent another $250 or so on darts, needles, antiseptic sprays and gas cannisters for the dart gun.  All of this was put to good use many times during the year, helping to remove snares from wild dogs and remove a collar that was was too tight from a lioness.

An African wild dog with a snare around his neck 

A female African wild dog treated for a snare injury

As many of you know, Rueben’s wife tragically died in August last year, leaving a 2 week old baby daughter.  Many of you donated money to help Rueben buy the powdered milk that he needed for his daughter. The total amount raised for Rueben was US$220 and this kept his daugher fed for 6 months – we just spent the last of that money last week, on another tin of milk powder.  His daughter, Chiedza, continues to do well, and Rueben wanted me to thank you again for your donations. 

Rueben’s daughter Chiedza (’Light’)

US$500 will go towards our rabies vaccination efforts this year (more on this to follow), and the rest of the money raised (c. US$280) was put towards Rueben and Misheck’s salaries in 2009.

So thank you all once again for your support.  Please keep it up.  We have big plans for this year, and need your support to help us achieve them.  Donating is now quick and easy (and totally secure), and every little helps.  Specifically we are still trying to raise funds for vaccination campaigns, and for Rueben and Misheck’s salaries.

Thank you from us all at the Zimbabwe Wild Dog Project

Scorpions… and wild dogs!

There appears to have been a scorpion infestation in the conservancy recently…. Here’s one of the very, very, very, very,very painful ones.  It was just making its way into my house a few nights ago, although luckily I saw him before he got inside. 

Scorpion

Check out how fat his tail is, and how (relatively!) small his pincers are….

Scorpion2

We saw another one recently too; it emerged from under the sofa in the evening, but fortunately was one of the burrowing scorpions, and lots less dangerous, although it could certainly have given us a nasty sting.

Scorpions aside, the dog project is going well.  We’ve recently had a couple of sightings reported in the south of the conservancy where there are only a few dogs, so it’s encouraging when they are seen.  It’s possible numbers are picking up there, as the last report was of a pack larger than any we know of… So it’s either observer error or an entirely new pack – we’ll follow up and see if we can work out what ths story is.  The collared packs (Bedford Pack, Star Pack and Maera Pack) are still looking healthy, although there is still no sign of the missing individuals.

A healthy pack of African wild dogs

Back soon,

Rosemary

The rains have come to Zimbabwe

Hi folks,

Well, it seems the rains have arrived.  We’ve had one huge storm followed by two of three days of consistent drizzle. When the sun finally emerged this morning, it shone onto an entirely new world.  Where previously there was bare, dry ground, there is now a covering of green grass…

 A green carpet of new grass after Zimbabwe’s first rains

It’s also the time of year for giving birth.  I’ve seen the first baby warthogs (such cute little piglets!), the first baby wildebeest and today I saw this very new giraffe calf.  Check out how tufty its horns still are – and the remains of the umbilical cord.

Baby giraffe in Zimbabwe

Amphibians, reptiles and all sorts of insects are also out and about now.  The changes that take place within a matter of hours after the first rains really are spectacular.  For example these foam-nest frog nests have suddenly appeared above every newly filled water pan.

Foam nest frog nests, Zimbabwe

The wild dogs also change with the first rains.  No longer being constrained by water availability, they move far and wide. All the pregnant impalas and new born calves also make their meals easier to come by, so in general this is a time of year when the dogs thrive.  They certainly seem to be doing so here in the Save Valley Conservancy – at least the packs we can find!  Several of the packs have moved away from their dry-season home ranges and we are still looking for them.  We found the Maera pack today though, and the Star pack a few days ago, and confirmed all of them are looking fit, fat and healthy!

Back soon,

Rosemary

Baby porcupine rescued from fire

Hi folks,

Apologies for the deviation from wild dogs – yet again!  I just had to share this story with you.

The Zimbabwean lowveld has been struggling with some major bush fires in the last month.  Much of the southern half of the Save Valley Conservancy was burnt, tragically including Senuko Lodge which was one of the most stunning places it’s possible to imagine. 

Gonarezhou has also been fighting fires… In the process, Hugo and Elsabe van der Westhuizen from Frankfurt Zoological Society (which works with the Zimbabwean Parks and Wildlife Management Authority to help conserve the Gonarezhou ecosystem) noticed a baby porcupine fleeing from the fire.  He had badly burnt feet and was never going to beat the fire, so Hugo (amidst much cursing I would imagine!), used his shirt to grab the spikey little fellow and took him back to their camp for rehabilitation.

Spiker the baby porcupine

He adapted well to his new home, enjoying the darkness of his box during the day time and coming out at night to potter around and eat the offerings Elsabe put out for him (porcupines are naturally nocturnal).  He seems to be particularly keen on potatoes, apple and sadza (the local staple food of maize meal).

Spiker’s temporary new home

With the use of gardening gloves and oven gloves (!) we managed to treat the wounds on his feet and give him an injection of long-acting antibiotics – no small challenge, I might say! He seems to be a lot better already, and his feet are healing nicely.

The baby porcupine - close up!

Bless him!

I’ll let you know how he does and how his re-introduction back into the bush goes. 

Rosemary

Calling and collaring lions in Gonarezhou NP

Hi folks,

I’m finally back from three weeks in the wilderness of Gonarezhou.  As you will see from the last two posts, I did actually have a few days at park HQs in the middle of the stay, so this is the story of what happened in phase two of the trip…

After a few days of ‘admin’ at HQ, I set off once again with Rueben and a National Parks research assistant Julius, for the three hour drive across the park into the eastern area where we were hoping to find signs of wild dogs, and if we were lucky to get a collar on to a lion.  The first evening we were there, we drove out to a stunning water-filled pan full of birds and surrounded by groups of impala, warthogs, baboons, zebra, wildebeest and even the rare and spectacular sable antelope. 

 Sable herd (and waterbirds in abundance) at Machaniwa Pan 

We saw no fresh lion or wild dog spoor, but it seemed like a good place for predators, so we decided to set up a calling station in an open area nearby and see what came.  To attract predators, the usual method is to play the sound of a dying buffalo calf over loudspeakers and see what comes to investigate.  In this instance, however, instead of attracting predators, we attracted a large and rather anxious herd of buffalo, come to save their calf!! 

An anxious herd of buffalo coming to investigate the source of the noise

They were very persistent and we could do nothing for the next hour or so, until they moved off to drink.  After that, our call-up attracted 3 black-backed jackals and a civet, but no larger predators…  

At least until I changed tactic and played a lion roar, at which point an immediate and very load answering roar told us there was in fact a lion not too far away!! Although the moon was only half full it was bright enough for me to make out the lion through binoculars – a beautiful male with a half-black mane.  Great!  It was wonderful to know he was around, and we decided we would try to lure him to bait the following night to try to collar him.

As it turned out, he could not have been more co-operative!  Early the next morning, I was woken up at 4:30 by the sound of a lion roaring.  I got up to investigate, and there was the lion strolling along past the camp (maybe 150m away)…  So I flung on some clothes, jumped into the car, prepared the drugs and a dart and went after him.  We followed him for a while but then lost him in thick bush, so decided rather to wait for the evening when lions become active again.   We called him again, and he came to the bait around half past eight.  I managed to dart him, and discovered (to my great surprise to say the least!) that he already had a very old, dysfunctional collar on.  Bizarre!!  This turned out to be from the wildlife reserve neighbouring the park, in which he had been collared in 2002, and from where he went missing in 2005! It turns out he is 10-11 years old, which is OLD for a lion, and evidenced by his very worn teeth.   

The lion’s teeth - VERY worn!

Despite this, he was in good condition, albeit slightly thin, and it will be great to be able to keep an eye on him now that he is collared.  The collar will hopefully also prevent him getting shot on one of the hunting concessions outside the park.  We also took some blood samples to be able to test for various diseases – Bovine TB is a particular concern, and for genetic analyses to help us establish whether there is any inbreeding in the lion population in the park. 

Rueben and Julius with the immobilised lion

We are doing all this work (by the way) because there are worryingly few lions in Gonarezhou National Park, which should be a prime area for the conservation of the species, and we need to find out what factors are keeping their population so low, so we can try and do something about it.  Lion and wild dog populations are also linked in many ways, so getting an idea of the abundance and distribution of the lions in the park also has key significance for understanding wild dog populations. 

On that note, we also found evidence of more wild dogs in the park, which was extremely encouraging, and which I will report on in a separate posting. 

Back soon, 

Rosemary