Category Archives: save valley conservancy

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!

A Leader is Lost

A few weeks ago we found the collar of the very old alpha male of Mapura Pack, Nyoka. We never found his carcass, so we do not know what happened to him, but he has not been seen with his pack for three weeks suggesting he died. Nyoka was 8 years old, and bite marks across the top of the collar indicate he was probably killed by lions.

Nyoka, a fearless leader

Nyoka, a fearless leader


For the past few weeks the pack has been moving around uncollared, and seeing as they like to venture outside of the conservancy, this situation was less than ideal. Fortunately, we received a report of the dogs resting at a water point yesterday afternoon, and due to the incredible heat at the moment, the pack hadn’t moved at all when we got there.

We managed to dart a young male (who will be called Dirk after the water point we found the pack at!) and fitted him with a satellite collar. We will now be able to keep a better watch of the pack and make sure they come to no harm.


Dirk immobilised with plenty of ice packs to keep cool!


Rosemary Groom and Jess Watermeyer relieved with a successful collaring.


Collaring opportunities are a great hands-on learning experience for our local attachment students!


We are sad to see the end of Nyoka’s reign, but wait with anticipation to see how new pack dynamics will unfold as this year’s denning season approaches. Who will step forward and lead the pack alongside the alpha female, Ursula?

Mapura Pack

Mapura Pack


P.S. Some of you may remember that Scarlet (the young female who was so badly injured by lions last year) is part of this pack. We are happy to report she is doing well and still with the pack!

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



An unfortunate and unusual ending for one of the Splinters Pack’s pups.

Unfortunately, we received a report a three days ago that one of our wild dog pups had drowned in a water trough on a neighbouring property. It turned out to be one of the female beta litter pups from Splinters Pack. This is one of the rarer ‘causes of death’ recorded for pups in Save Valley Conservancy, with the majority of pups losing their lives to lion predation.


Dead female pup from Splinters Pack.


A recent count of the major causes of pup mortality

A count of previous major causes of pup mortality.

Wild dogs absolutely love to play in and rest near water, especially during the hotter months of the year! Sadly, Splinters Pack’s recent activity around water had an unfortunate ending. It is hard to imagine what happened; perhaps the pups were playing and jumped up onto the wall of the trough and this pup fell in and just could not get out? The pack was still standing around when the pup was found. Wild dogs have extremely strong social bonds and will often return to a dead pack member’s body for up to two days after their death.

Fortunately, the pack was sighted a few days later, again resting near a pan, and still with a very good number of pups remaining! So far we have 68% pup survival in the conservancy, let’s hope the pups continue to do well during the upcoming rainy season!

Wild dogs love to play in and rest near water

Wild dogs love to play in and rest near water.

Some of the remaining pups gathered under the shade of a tree

Some of the remaining pups gathered under the shade of a tree.

“Suddenly the grass comes alive with one, two then all seven pups…”

A few days ago, Lin Barrie (friend, professional artist, AWCF supporter and wild dog enthusiast) happened to send through her own personal account of her visits to the Nyarushanga den, in the south of the Savé Valley Conservancy, for our interest. As we read through Lin’s wonderfully detailed and animated account of her time with the dogs, we found ourselves realising what an absolute privilege it is to be able to view and experience African wild dogs like we do, and how we all too often take it for granted.


 28 July 2014

Something does not feel right at the Nyarushanga wild dog den, as I listen to only one pup begging food from an adult who has run a grassy area at the base of the towering koptjie, the site behind the den where the dogs seem to have relocated. I have been away from this den for too long, lost my sense of continuity… is there only one pup left? Has some dire fate befallen the other six? Are there still nine adults?

The pups on first emergence

 I arrived here earlier, this late, sunny winter morning to be greeted by silence, the dog den looking deserted and no fresh tracks in the vicinity. If I had been an impatient sort, I would have assumed that the pack had moved on with all the pups, and driven away. But I sat.

My reward for patience, a crackle of grass and the sudden arrival of an adult, well behind the deserted den, followed by greetings between dogs I could not see in the deep grass. Minutes after that another adult trotted over the rocks, head held high , bearing a chunk of fresh meat at least two kilograms in weight! Then I saw one pup rush through the grass, and they both disappeared behind the rocks…the pup ecstatic and twittering with excitement.


29 July 2014

All is silent. We sit. And sit. I stare hopefully at the deserted den mound… no pups materialize.

After 30 minutes of patient listening and watching, the sun has started a rapid descent through the Mopani trees. We decide to drive slowly around the back of the den.

Relief! As we circle, there are the telltale satellite ears of an adult lying in the grass, then another, and yet another, peer over a rocky outcrop at us… and suddenly the grass comes alive with one, two then all seven pups, as they head for a termite mound that we have not noticed.

The pack inquisitively watching

The adults nonchalantly stroll close to us, peering at us and acknowledging our arrival but relaxed. Only a soft growl from the unseen but ever vigilant alpha female betrays her position in long grass near to the termite mound. Within minutes the pack has melted away into the cool dusk, hunting for supper while the alpha female remains, cautiously popping her head above the rim of the termite mound. We discover a hole and see the last pup dive down into the depths, only to come out again when called for supper. We will have to leave before then.

Playful pups at the den site!


Feeding time and all is calm for a minute or two

Sitting in the gloom, chatting quietly and watching birds prepare for night, I am deeply content. All is well in the Nyarushanga Pack’s world, at least for today. Lions have called distantly every night, an ever present threat for pups and adult dogs alike. But for the moment the den is peaceful, undiscovered and safe!


For more on Lin Barrie, her art, and her tales of wild dogs, please visit Lin Barrie’s Facebook page, A Celebration of Painted Wolves:


Batanai Battle the Elements

It seems like denning season has only just started. Indeed, most of the pups are only just reaching the two month mark, and are a real treat to watch as they are a little more bold and adventurous and starting to explore the world around them. This makes it all the more difficult to believe that Batanai pack, the second pack to start denning this year, is potentially left with only one pup.

Batanai is one of the biggest packs here in Savé Valley Conservancy (currently 19 adults), and generally bears a sizeable brood. Last year they had 10 pups, six of which are still alive and have become integral members of the pack. This year, however, only five pups were ever recorded by the scouts or sighted on the den cameras and their numbers have dwindled rather rapidly.

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On the 29 June 2014 AWCF scout, Cain Kodzevhu, reported finding just the back leg of one pup at the den, and then on the 07 July 2014 one pup is seen to be dragged out of the den already dead. The pack moved dens shortly after this, and that was the last time we saw three little pups playing around the den. When the pack was found a few days later,  Cain only saw one pup at the den site.

M2E47L161-160R393B309 Capture

People are often amazed at the big litter sizes of African wild dogs, but more often than not less than half the pups will survive to adult hood and sexual maturity. Last year we had a total of 68 pups from litters at first emergence, but only 19 of them survived to see this year’s denning season! Let’s hope for a stronger survival rate this year. With fewer than 6 600 wild dogs left in Africa, we need to do all we can to give the species the best fighting chance!


Through the eyes of a trail camera…

It is hard to believe we are already half way through the New Year. Although slightly daunting, it does mean one thing… denning season has arrived! Perhaps one of the best times of the year for the AWCF field team, and all of you, who are able to share in every moment with us thanks to our generously donated trail cameras which unobtrusively capture some incredible moments of our denning African wild dogs.

Denning season is well underway and our scouts have worked flat out to locate the dens of eight of our 11 focal packs in Savé Valley Conservancy, and are hot on the heels of the others! Mapura pack has stayed loyal to Chishakwe, and even though their den is in an awkward location for viewing, they are frequently sighted hunting on the airstrip. Splinters pups emerged a month ago totaling 13 in number, and Batanai pack seem to have close to 10 or 11 pups (an accurate count still needs to be obtained). The rest of the packs’ pups are due to emerge shortly, so keep an eye on our Facebook page for regular updates and plenty of photos! ???????????????????? ????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? Not only do we get to see what mischievous behaviour the newly born pups are getting up to, but we are able to collect valuable monitoring data (number of pups at first emergence, ID shots, adult counts, pick up dogs with snares on etc.) and see who is coming and going at the den site. Some are welcome visitors and others are not… ? ????????????????????? ????????????????????? Cdy00517 We cannot wait to see what the rest of the denning season has in store for us, and we are sure you can’t either! Remembering that a successful denning season, and good pup survival, is key to maintaining a viable and stable population of wild dogs in Save Valley Conservancy. The wild dogs definitely seem excited about it all… ???????????????????? Cdy00119

2013 in Conservation

2013 was a challenging year for the AWCF as far as our conservation efforts were concerned. Poaching for the bush meat trade meant there were more snares in the field than we’ve ever seen before. Despite the  renewed pressure this put the dogs (and in fact all species!) under, we saw a good breeding season (from late May up until September) ,with lots of seriously cute pups running around the Savé Valley Conservancy (SVC), as can be seen from this endearing sequence of pics captured by our camera trap of a mom and her pups leaving the den for a spot of early morning “bush school”.


 We conducted a successful field amputation on Flame, a year and a half old male, born into the Mapura Pack. One day our scouts observed that Flame seemed to have sustained a bad break in several places below the knee of his hind leg. (Wild dogs can suffer broken legs during hunting accidents or from failed attacks by lions and generally cope, heal and manage quite well if left alone.) We are always reluctant to interfere, unless the injury is of human origin (a snare injury or a wild dog hit by a car, etc.) We monitored Flame and saw his condition deteriorate over the weeks. He was losing weight and was no longer active within the pack. We consulted wildlife veterinarians as to the possibility of the break healing and Flame making a full recovery, but none could provide us with that certainty.

Flame with broken leg

We were fortunate to have a wildlife capture team working in Savé Valley Conservancy during the last few weeks of September and we were able to organise for the resident wildlife veterinarian, Jacqueline Mostert, to have a look at Flame’s injury. It was decided that amputating the leg, which had just become dead weight, would give Flame the best chance of survival. It was fortunate that the Mapura pack were denning again so allowing Flame the time to heal and gather his strength

On the 07 October 2013, Flame’s leg was amputated in an operation lasting almost three hours! It is one of the rare times an amputation has taken place in the field and we must commend Jacqueline Mostert on her skill and professionalism whilst working in such unusual conditions.

Flame's amputation

We continued to monitor Flame for the next few weeks and watched him go from strength to strength. These days he moves as if he was born on three legs, covering vast distances with the rest of the pack and he is often seen playing with the pups. We eagerly watch to see how this story unfolds and what lies in store for Flame.

For any organisation monitoring and protecting wildlife, the death of an animal is always a terribly sad occasion. Death by natural causes is one thing but it’s the senseless, wasteful and often cruel deaths of our animals due to human misadventure that really hits home hard. Lions and indiscriminate snaring by poachers for bush-meat continue to be the greatest threats to wild dogs (and other carnivores) in the south-east of Zimbabwe (aside, of course, from habitat loss and fragmentation).

  • R.I.P – CLAW. The alpha female of the Mambira Pack. Claw was a longstanding inspiration to local artist Lin Barrie who followed the pack’s development and movements passionately. The cause of Claw’s death was never determined (suspect snake bite, possibly Mamba).

    Claw, painted by artist Lin Barrie

    Claw, painted by artist Lin Barrie

  • R.I.P – FORAX. The alpha female of the Mapura Pack. She was killed by lions.
  • R.I.P – TICK. Tick was one of the oldest dogs in the Savé Valley– if not the oldest. Tick was also killed by lions. While still a great loss, Tick’s death provided us with the opportunity to learn more about the biology of wild dogs and his skull will be used for education purposes amongst our local community schools, so his legacy lives on.

R.I.P. We lost another five adult wild dogs to snares set up by a bush meat syndicate and one pup from a vehicle collision accident. We’ll be focusing heavily on drawing the media’s attention to indiscriminate poaching syndicates in the coming months so look out for us and support our efforts to keep the remaining packs of Africa’s wild dogs safe from human harm!

Snares removed

Snares removed in a sweep by the dedicated scouts of the Save Valley Conservancy Antipoaching Unit (ATS). Your support goes a long way to ensuring wild dog survival

Ever Enthralling Wild Dog Behaviour

Hi all,

The blistering heat has finally given way to some very badly needed rain in the south-east Zimbabwean Lowveld. As the rain pours down outside I find myself wondering what our wild dog packs in Save Valley Conservancy are doing. Most likely, the adults are relaxing and enjoying the cool weather whilst the pups are experiencing a new lease of life and thinking up innovative ways to play in the mud and with water droplets running off branches. This really is a beautiful time of year in the conservancy as the bush starts to green and thicken; things come alive. We experienced this whilst sitting and watching our Mapura pack one evening over the past weekend. The pack and six-week old pups really did put on a wonderful ‘show’ for us. It was great to observe how much the beta litter pups learn by mimicking the adults and slightly older alpha litter pups. We couldn’t help but laugh as we watched one female having a wonderful time rolling around in a patch of something ‘enticing’, only to see two of the pups inquisitively watch her behaviour and then copy it exactly!

Playing pupsVisual observations combined with trail cameras at the den help us to greater understand the social complexities of this unique species. We are privileged to capture moments of feeding, playing, resting and bonding between the members of the pack. You become acutely aware of how connected and familiar the individuals are and learn to appreciate this unique trait of the species.


Have a wonderful rest of the week, more soon!