Category Archives: Rueben

Successful re-collaring of a wild dog

Hi folks,

Just a quick post to let you know I successfully managed to dart and re-collar one of the wild dogs in the Bedford Splinter Group (‘Patch’) a few days ago.  The GPS collar that was on before was not working, so when Rueben found the dogs in a nice open area, easily accessible by vehicle, I took the opportunity to see if I could dart her to change the collar.

Rueben with Patch

Fortunately everything went well. The first dart hit with good placement and Patch went down comfortably in the shade.  The re-collaring went fine and she recovered well and joined up with the rest of the pack shortly afterwards.  Hopefully with this new collar on, we will get detailed information on the movements of this pack – all helping us to understand more about the dogs’ ecological requirements.

Rosemary with Patch

Back soon,


Wild dogs in Gonarezhou National Park

Hi folks,

I’ve recently come back from 10 days in Gonarezhou, where I was conducting a large carnivore call-up survey, in collaboration with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and Frankfurt Zoological Society.  I’ll tell you all about this in a later post, but during the time we were doing this work – focussed mainly on lions and hyenas – we also made significant progress with our understanding of the wild dog population in this large, remote wilderness area.

We were already aware of the existence of a pack in the very south of the park, and thanks to the exceptional tracking skills of Rueben, and a Parks scout Julius, they managed to locate the den of this pack.  This was extremely exciting, and is (to our knowledge) the first time anyone has located a wild dog den inside the park.  The den is about 3km off the nearest road, over ridges and through rivers and its find is a real credit to Rueben and Julius.  We have put some camera traps at the den, and I will post photos from them once I have been back to change the batteries.  In the meantime, we know there are at least 6 adults and 7 pups, although I think the pack is larger than that.

The den site of the Mabalauta Pack

The den site of the Mabalauta Pack

Just as excitingly, we also found evidence of another successfully breeding pack in a totally unexpected area of the park, where we have never seen any evidence of wild dogs before.  We saw one wild dog one night (when we were doing the calls for lions), and the next day followed the tracks and came across an area with plenty of old and fresh adult and puppy tracks suggesting a recent den in the area.

Rosemary & Rueben looking at tracks by a water pan we came across

Rosemary & Rueben looking at tracks by a water pan we came across

As you can see from the photo below however, the long grass in the area hampered tracking efforts, and we never found the den, but Rueben estimates about 10 adults and 8 pups from the tracks, which is fantastic.

Long grass in the area of the Chitanga Pack den

Long grass in the area of the Chitanga Pack den

This was all very encouraging, and suggests Gonarezhou may in fact be an important conservation unit for the wild dogs.


Further deaths in the Mavericks pack

Hi folks,

Apologies for not posting further news sooner: we have been dealing with a bit of a crisis with the wild dogs here in the south of the Save Valley Conservancy.  Unfortunately, two more dogs have recently died at the Mavericks pack den, leaving only the alpha female alive to care for the pups.  Post mortems were performed on two of the dogs, but the results from the samples will not be back for a few days.

At this stage, we are still suspecting poisoning, but infectious disease such as canine distemper and also rabies are also a possibility.

One of the dogs – a yearling female – was found by Rueben whilst she was still alive.  He called us immediately and when we got there she was alive but very weak – having collapsed with her head wedged between two rocks.

sick dog in rocks

Rosemary with sick wild dog

We quickly loaded her into the car – she was so weak that no sedatives were required – and set off to Malilangwe Trust where there is a wildlife vet.

in the car

It was one of the longest 45 minutes of my life, but when we got there, she was still alive and we managed to get her onto a drip.  Her breathing improved and we had good hopes of her recovery but unfortunately she died the following day.

at the vets

The other yearling went missing from the den at the same time, and is presumed dead, although no carcass was found.

I’ll do a post soon on the situation with the lone remaining female and the pups, and with the results of the post mortem sample analysis.

Please help us to prevent this sort of thing happening again by donating funds for transport, scout power, drugs and vet fees


Mavericks pack den found!

Hi guys,

Rueben has been tracking wild dogs in the south of the conservancy for the last two weeks and has been very successful. Not only has he found spoor for various packs of dogs, but he also managed to track spoor to the den site of the Mavericks pack. It seems that, like the Star pack, they too have chosen to den outside the conservancy on a cattle ranch! Luckily we have been given permission to visit them. Unfortunately we haven’t been following this pack as closely as we would have liked as they tend to stay in the very south of the conservancy, quite a way from where we are based, but we believe there to be five adults and at least four pups. We’ve put up a camera trap so should know more in a week or so.


Mina the alpha female

Mina the alpha female

Gonarezhou Predator Survey – Part 1

Hi folks,

I’m still in the middle of the large carnivore spoor survey in Gonarezhou National Park, but have come back to Park’s Headquarters briefly to refuel and re-fill our water containers. I thought I’d post some pics of the survey so far…

The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority kindly lent us a vehicle (sponsored by Frankfurt  Zoological Society) in which to conduct the spoor survey.  The workshop folks had ingeniously constructed a seat for Rueben on the front of the vehicle, where he looks out for tracks as I drive slowly along the roads.

whole car plus rueben tracking

This has been my view from the drivers seat for most of the past week…!

rueben through windscreen

We’ve seen lots of signs of large carnivores in the park – mostly spotted hyenas and leopards, although we have also seen fresh signs of wild dogs in a couple of different places.  But remarkably few signs of lions, indicating there is a genuine cause for concern about this species in the park.  We also see a LOT of these tracks… African civets.  They seem to be very abundant in the park!

civet tracks

And from time to time we get to see things other than tracks!  We watched this small herd of elephants mud bathing and spraying water around the place, over lunch break one day.

eles at gorwhe

And finally, just before it gets dark we stop wherever we end up – or wherever we need to start the next day – and make camp….

ro's tent

It’s a real privilege to be able to spend so much time in such a beautiful and wild national park.  Except for at the headquarters, it’s very rare to encounter another person or vehicle and the feeling of remoteness is complete.  It does get lonely sometimes, but on the whole I enjoy it, and it will certainly be a nasty shock getting back to the office!

I’m off out into the park again early tomorrow morning to complete the survey, and check up on one of our collared lions.  I’ll be in touch again in a week or so, when I’m back.


Update on Rueben’s daughter and family

Hi folks,

Many of you were kind enough to donate money to help Rueben, our head wild dog scout, buy powdered milk for his new baby daughter, Chiedza, after his wife tragically passed away 2 weeks after she was born.  I am pleased to be able to report that Chiedza is doing very well.  She is now an active, healthy eight month old baby, with a very proud father!

Rueben's family - his sister is holding Chiedza

Rueben's family - his sister is holding Chiedza

Her successful start in life is largely thanks to many of you, and both Rueben and I are grateful for your support.  We are a close team at the wild dog project and Rueben is a crucial part of that team, so it’s been great to be able to help him, especially when life in Zimbabwe is so hard for the majority of people.  Here are a couple more photos of Rueben and his family at home.

Rueben's family in his maize field

Rueben's family in his maize field

Rueben's home

Rueben's home

Rueben and family

Rueben and family

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

Wild Dog Scouts

Hi folks,

I recently realised that I talk a fair amount in this blog about our two wild dog scouts, Rueben and Misheck.  Given that they are critical members of our small team, I thought it would be appropriate to start the new year with a proper introduction of them, especially for those who are new to the blog.


Rueben has been with the wild dog project since 1997 – that’s 13 years!  Prior to that he worked as a rhino scout for several years.  He knows the 3500km2 of the Save Valley Conservancy probably better than anyone else and in this alone he is an enormous asset to the project.  In addition he is an exceptional wildlife tracker, and has an uncanny ability to be able to predict wild dog behaviour.  He’s a loyal, honest, hard-working team member and is a genuine pleasure to work with.

Rueben radio-tracking to locate wild dogs

Rueben investigating cause of death in an African wild dog

Rueben lives in a village not far from the western boundary of the conservancy.  He has 5 children – 4 boys (all at school) and his baby girl Chiedza who was born last year.  After his wife died shortly after she was born, Chiedza is being looked after by his wifes sister…

Rueben’s sister in law with his baby daughter Chiedza

Rueben will be taking his driving test in a couple of days – I’m sure you will join me in wishing him good luck!


Misheck has been with the project for 10 years, and he too is an extremely valuable member of the team.  He’s a hard worker, and an excellent wild dog tracker. 

Misheck with a wild dog immobilised for collaring

Misheck also comes from a local village.  He is married with 4 children and seemingly countless neices and nephews! At home, Misheck and his family grow maize and cotton.

Misheck with his wife and two of his children

Mishecks children and a niece

Given Rueben and Misheck’s skills and dedication to the project, along with understanding the difficulties they face with trying to support such a large family during these hard times in Zimbabwe, we would like to increase both of their wages considerably this year, and be in a position to help increase their skills base (like paying for Rueben’s driving test).  We are asking for your help to do this.  Please consider either sponsoring one of the scouts on a monthly basis using the monthly donation tab on the right of this page, or making a one-off donation which we will put towards their salaries.  To do that through this blog is quick and efficient, so it will only take a moment of your time to make a huge difference to Rueben and Misheck and their families.

Given all our exciting and challenging plans for 2010 (see the last post) all of us here at the wild dog team  are going to be working extra hard this year, and we are going to need your support. 

Thank you and best wishes from Rueben, Misheck and Rosemary

Merry Christmas from the Zimbabwe Wild Dogs

All of us from the Zimbabwe Wild Dog Project would like to take this opportunity to wish all our readers and supporters a very merry Christmas.  Rueben asked me to send extra special greeting and thanks to those who helped him to feed his baby daughter during the very difficult time after his wife died.

Rueben and his baby daughter Chiedza (means ‘Light’)

And I would like to add a personal extra thanks to those who have donated to our project this month: Pirjo (twice!), Russell M, Brenton H, Richard F, Yogatama D, Cathy A and Trish W. All your donations this month will go towards protecting the wild dogs against rabies, which is our current most urgent need, so THANK YOU so much.

Anyone else who would like to help support these incredible, highly endangered and wonderfully charismatic animals, a donation can be made quickly and easily through this blog.  It’s not too late to do it before Christmas – and what a special Christmas gift that would be.

wild dog pup - 2 months

Rueben, Misheck and I will be taking some time off to spend with our families over the Christmas period, so this blog may be quiet for a while, but rest assured there are people keeping an eye on the wild dogs for us, and we will be told immediately if any problems arise. 

So from all of us at the Zimbabwe Wild Dog Project, MERRY CHRISTMAS and wishing you all a very happy festive period.

Rueben’s baby daughter

Hi folks,

I got back from Mozambique yesterday – what a stunning country that is!  I will post a few photos in the next blog just to make you all jealous.  In the meantime, I wanted to share these photos of Rueben’s baby daughter with you.  He just came back from visiting his family where he took these photos.

Rueben’s daughter, Chiedza

She is called Chiedza which means ‘light’ and is the baby girl that you have helped so much through your donations of money for milk powder, after her mother died when she was less than 2 weeks old.

Chiedza with the powdered milk

What a cute little girl she is.  Here is Rueben with her…

Rueben and Chiedza

So once again a huge thank you from him and me to everyone who donated money to buy her milk.  Let’s hope we can continue to support her as she continues to grow.