Category Archives: poaching

Update on the two injured wild dogs

Dear all,

A brief, photo-less post i am afraid to say.  I am currently in Harare doing town chores and admin but I recently got a couple of emails about the two injured wild dogs that I wrote about in a recent post, and I wanted to give you an update.  My scout Rueben saw the pack a few days ago and confirmed that the dog that had the snare around his neck, which we removed a couple of weeks ago, is doing well.  The injury has yet to heal completely, but he is still alive and the wound looks clean, so everything is pointing towards him making it.  Thank goodness.

One of my colleagues saw the dog with three legs recently as well.  He reported that he was keeping up with the pack and appeared to be well fed, and in reasonable condition.  Given that we know the injury occurred at least 4 weeks ago and probably 5, the fact that he is still doing okay is encouraging.  If infection was going to set in, it would probably have happened by now, and if the injury was too bad to prevent reasonable movement, we would probably be seeing a serious decline in body condition by now as well.  So once again, the signs are good that he will make it.  We will keep fingers crossed.  They are remarkably resilient and caring animals, so he has a good chance.

Back soon,




De-snaring another wild dog (warning – gruesome photos)

Hi Folks,

A couple of days ago Rueben reported seeing a pack of wild dogs with two injured pack members.  One had a snare around his neck and one – sadly – had completely lost a leg.  I went out immediately to take a look and see if there was anything I could do.  Unfortunately the one who had lost a leg is beyond my help.  It seems he was caught in a snare and chewed his own leg off to get out…. Yes, you did read that correctly.  My immediate reaction of disbelief when I saw it was swiftly followed by anger at the immense cruelty of snaring.  This only increased when I managed to get a look at the dog with the snare around his neck…

I tried to dart him, but could not get a shot at him that day, and in any case it was getting late, so the following day, Rueben found the pack again early (thank goodness for the collar) and we spent the best part of the day trying to get close enough to get a dart in.  Unfortunately when dogs have been injured, they often become, understandably, very wary of humans, and they kept a long way out of range.  We tried motorbike, foot and vehicle and eventually I managed to get a dart in him when they stopped at a water point to drink.

The wound was even more terrible than it had seemed. The poor dog’s neck was almost half cut off….

I called for some help and by some miracle had sufficient phone signal to get a message through to a vet to ask for advice.  We removed the snare, cleaned up the wound and did what we could.

Luckily, the whole procedure went extremely well.  The dog slept soundly throughout and only started to come around once we had finished everything.  (The brown in the photo below is the betadine solution with which we cleaned the wound).

After an injection of the reversal drug, he made an extremely good recovery and soon joined his pack again.  I hope he will make it – he’s only a 10 month old pup, and deserves more of a chance than that!  Fortunately wild dogs are extremely resilient and I have seen dogs with similar wounds recover fine, so his chances are not too bad.  I will let you know how he does.

Back soon,



Gonarezhou Wild Dog killed in a snare

Hi Folks,

I’m sad to report that our only collared wild dog in Gonarezhou National Park was recently found dead in a snare.  We found the carcass last month, but she had been dead since the 7th July according to the information on her GPS collar.


This was an adult female known as Strops – part of the Mabalauta Pack in the southern part of Gonarezhou.  Just before she died, she went walkabout….  Far out of her usual home range – up through the whole park, across the huge Save River, into Mozambique then back down again (see the points on the map below).  At one stage she walked over 40km in 12 hours!  Although we never actually saw her in the months preceding her death, these sorts of long distance movements are typical of a single sex dispersing group of wild dogs which have split from their natal pack and are moving off to look for a mate.

mabalauta wild dog female movements to july 2011Strops was killed by a snare around her waist and must have starved to death in her trap.  The bite marks on the logs and trees around the carcass and the damage to the indestructible snare cable itself bear witness to the horrific struggle and suffering she must have gone through before she died.

carcass showing wire around spine

snare attached to tree

This happened only a few hundred meters from Gonarezhou’s eastern boundary with Mozambique. Unfortunately we find a lot of our problems come from Mozambique and they are difficult to address because of the need for international collaboration and cross-border law enforcement.  Nonetheless, we are trying to address the problems in collaboration with the official authorities and hope that we will be able to reduce the amount of illegal activities along this boundary area.

Snare removal from African wild dog

Hi folks,

As I mentioned in the update on the Batanai pack, when we last saw this pack, we noticed that Hobbit, one of the collared males in the pack, had a very nasty snare wound around his neck.

Hobbit showing bad snare wound under the collar

We were desperate to get it off him, and of course remove the collar which must have been rubbing horribly, but we just could not get a darting opportunity.  We spent several days trying to get close enough to him in the car without any luck, and eventually tried a new tactic…. Darting from the back of the motorbike!

getting ready to go

That plan was all good and well until we took off at speed through the thorn bushes!


But then the focus was on getting close to the dog and getting a dart in, which we succeeded in doing.  Unfortunately he didn’t go down properly (badly injured animals often don’t) so after a combination of ambushes from the middle of a thorn bush (?!) and sneaking up on him behind a tree I managed to get a second dart in and he went down well.

It was such a relief after trying for so long, to be able to finally get that snare off.  It was a tight copper-wire snare.  A very nasty wound, which has cut deep into his neck but thankfully not through the windpipe.  Here is a picture of the injury after treatment:

Once the snare had been removed

I will post a video of the operation soon.

Please remember you can help us to help these awesome animals through a donation to the project through this website.  Just click on the DONATE button on the right hand side of this page. Thank you

Back soon,


De-snaring a leopard

The use of wire-snares by poachers to catch wild animals is one of the main threats to Zimbabwe’s wildlife at the moment.  Although the snares are set mainly to target species like impala, zebra and wildebeest, they are unfortunately a hugely indiscriminate killing method.  Over the past eight years we have recorded over thirteen different species killed in snares, including wild dog, rhino, cheetah, elephant and leopard.

Occasionally however, an animal will manage to break the wire, but generally carries the wire round it’s neck, leg or waist either until it dies or until we can take it off.

Recently, thanks to my colleague Dusty Joubert, we managed to trap a large male leopard that had a snare round his neck and remove the snare.

The darted leopard

The darted leopard

Cutting the snare off

Cutting the snare off

Fortunately, although the wound had clearly been a bad one, the skin had mostly healed over and the injury was not life threatening, although must have been painful.

Once the snare was removed

Once the snare was removed

The snare wound

The snare wound

So once again another snare removed from another beautiful, incredible and valuable animal.  And our ability to do this is largely thanks to all of you – our blog readers and supporters – who’s past donations have helped us to buy the drugs and equipment needed to do this.  Please continue to support us if you can – drug supplies are running low and unfortunately we are likely to continue seeing incidences like these, whilst Zimbabwe is still getting back on track after years of severe economic and social collapse.

Please help us to get our wildlife populations through this


De-snaring another wild dog

Hi folks,

We found the Bedford Bachelors again yesterday – this time right in the south of the conservancy, where they continue their search for some eligible ladies.

The Bedford Bachelors - 31-05-10 - Photo by Lin Barrie

The Bedford Bachelors - 31-05-10 - Photo by Lin Barrie

Good friends of mine who were with me at the time, Lin Barrie and Clive Stockil, noticed a snare around one of the dogs necks. It’s not obvious, but in the photo below, it’s the dog on the left that has the snare.  If you look closely you can see the wire sticking up and in front of the dog.

Coco & Flint - Coco (left) has a loose snare round his neck

Coco & Flint - Coco (left) has a loose snare round his neck

Fortunately it was loose and had not caused any injury to the dog.  Nonetheless, it must have been irritating, and had the potential to pull tight and cause harm, so we decided to try and remove it.

We darted the dog successfully and removed the snare.

Coco with snare around his neck

Coco with snare around his neck

Clive, Rosemary & Rueben with Coco

Clive, Rosemary & Rueben with Coco - Photo by Lin Barrie

As there was no injury to the neck we took the opportunity to fit a lightweight VHF collar as well, to help us keep track of the pack in future.

The cruelty of snares

Unfortunately one of our young female wild dogs has picked up a snare.  I noticed it yesterday when I went to the den after two weeks away in Gonarezhou.  The snare is wrapped tight around her neck and has a length of wire at least a meter long trailing to one side.


It is a horrific injury and looks very painful.  I spent much of yesterday trying to get close enough to her to dart her and remove the snare, but without success.  I went to the den again this morning, but the dogs were not there.  I will keep trying, and sincerely hope I can remove the snare before it is too late.

On a slightly more  positive note, she is not actually looking in too bad condition and has been out hunting with the rest of the pack on several occasions, rather than remaining at the den as is common for very sick individuals. So I’m hoping she will be okay, if only we can get that terrible wire off…

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

2010 Plans for Zimbabwe Wild Dogs

Happy New Year to all our readers and supporters.  I would like to start this post by thanking all those who have supported us during 2009.  Your donations have really helped to get us through some sticky financial patches and have made a very real difference to the conservation of the wild dogs.  We couldn’t have done what we have without you.

I also want to welcome those relatively new to this blog; thank you for your interest and I hope you continue to enjoy the site over 2010.

We have very exciting plans for 2010 – ambitious and challenging, but with your support and the continued dedication of the team in Zimbabwe we believe we can meet our goals.  We plan to focus on three main branches of conservation this year; environmental education, vaccination campaigns in domestic dogs to prevent the spread of rabies and canine distemper to the wild dogs, and increased investment in anti-poaching.


We aim to expand our current environmental education efforts signifcantly this year, with more schools being included in our program, teacher training workshops planned and the hiring of a local environmental education officer.  We believe environmental education is crucial to any long term conservation initiatives and that well designed, long-term and sustainable education programs are extremely important.

A primary school in Zimbabwe’s south-east lowveld

Vaccination Campaigns

Together with vets from the Aware Trust, we plan to carry out vaccination campaigns in the domestic dogs surrounding key wildlife areas in the south-east lowveld of Zimbabwe where we work.  Not only will this considerably reduce the threat to the wildlife from diseases such as rabies and canine distemper, it also has significant health benefits for the domestic dog and human populations.  We also plan to vaccinate as many wild dogs as possible against rabies over the forthcoming year (thanks again to those who donated funds to help buy the vaccines).

African wild dog immobilised for snare removal and rabies vaccination


Snaring is one of the major causes of death for wild dogs in Zimbabwe.  In 2009, over 80% of recorded wild dog mortality was due to snaring.  Many other dogs did not immediately die from the snares, but carried them around their necks or legs, suffering from horrific injuries.  And it is by no means just wild dogs; animals of all species are killed in a terrible way by these indiscriminate snares, in unsustainable numbers.  We plan to help support and expand current anti-poaching efforts, and specifically to focus on keeping wild dog home ranges and den site areas free from snares.  This is the sort of thing we are trying to prevent…

African wild dog puppy with a wound from a snare wire around his neck

We will also be working more in Gonarezhou National Park next year, with the aim of trying to understand why the wild dog population (and the lion population) is so low there.

I hope you will stick with us during 2010 and I will do my best to keep you updated with our progress in these and other areas.

With best wishes from all of us at the Zimbabwe Wild Dog Project for a peaceful and happy 2010.

Mapari pack collar lost

Hi folks,

Just a quick post from me today, as I’m actually busy with a 5 day intensive advanced first-aid course.  For the work I do, especially when I’m in Gonarezhou which is fairly remote, I do need to be trained in emergency first aid procedures.  So I’ve temporarily left the wild dog field work in the capable hands of Rueben and Misheck and instead will be spending the week doing this course.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that a couple of days ago, we unfortunately found the collar of the Mapari pack collared male, Darky, lying on the ground.  There is no way that the collar could have come off by itself, but nor did we find any carcass anywhere nearby where the collar was located.  This leads us to suspect a human-caused death of the wild dog, with the collar being removed from the carcass to prevent us finding it.  But we will probably never know for sure.  Darky was collared almost a year ago to the day – the 4th December 2008…

Darky immobilised for collaring whilst a curious pup checks him out

Darky immobilised with a curious pup looking on

African Wild Dog (Darkie) fitted with a VHF radio collar

For now, given the loss of the collar, the pack is now virtually impossible to find and so we will struggle to keep an eye on them until we get an opportunity to re-collar.  I only hope that if it was a snare that killed Darky that he was the only one that was caught.  On occasion, snare lines can catch and kill many indivudals in a pack.  I’ll let you know what we find next time we manage to locate the pack.