Apologies for being quiet for a while. I’ve been busy with all sorts of things which hasn’t given me much opportunity in front of the computer lately. We’ve just started the annual carnivore spoor survey in the conservancy, which involves driving along sandy roads at c.15km per hour and recording any fresh carnivore tracks picked up by our trackers. It’s a useful tool to enable us to estimate lion and hyena populations, and we count all other carnivores as well; genets/civets/leopards/cheetahs/wild dogs/jackals etc.
Anyhow, I recently visited the Bedford pack at their den, and once again they showed what beautiful and charismatic animals they are. So here’s a few more gratuitous pics of wild dog pups – just cos they are very cute!
Here is one investigating the camera trap I put up…
After which he decided it looked rather tasty!
Whilst this smaller pup from the second litter decided a stick was a more suitable toy/snack!
And finally this one, who decided some dancing was in order!
Anyway, will be back soon with an update on the other packs and more from the spoor survey,
We have some exciting news to report. A new pack of three wild dogs has shown up in the south of the conservancy. Rueben has once again proved his incredible skills as a tracker. Faced with the seemingly impossible task of locating a small, un-collared pack of wild dogs across a range of hundreds of square kilometers with long grass hampering off-road tracking, he persevered and a couple of weeks ago found the dogs resting in a reasonably accessible location. He managed to take a some photos before going to tell Lin Barrie (the wildlife artist and conservationist who lives on the property), who also managed to get some great photos.
As usual with wild dogs, given that they can be individually recognised by their coat patterns, photos are crucial to our understanding of which dogs are where and who is in which pack. Excitingly, I don’t recognise any of these three dogs, which means they are not simply a breakaway group of another pack, but an entirely new group. Add 3 to our conservancy wild dog population!!!
Moreover, the dogs seem to be settling in the south of the conservancy, where they have been seen several times recently. This is wonderful, as they considerably augment the rather depleted population that was down in that area previously!
I’ve asked Rueben if he would like to name the pack, so once he has decided what to call them, I’ll let you know,
Sorry I have been quiet recently; work here at the wild dog project has been very busy. Unfortunately my time here in Africa has come to an end. The experience with these wild dogs has been amazing!
I want to thank everyone who read and responded to my blogs. To all who helped with the project, I thank you and I hope everyone enjoyed reading my personal experiences.
I just want to say a huge thank you for all those kind comments for Rueben. I have passed them on to him and he is very touched (albeit slightly confused!) by such overwhelming kindness and support from people he doesn’t even know. He is also extremely grateful for the money donated to help him buy the powdered milk his child needs. The following is what he wrote to you all:
I am very glad to write this letter to you all who are sending me some money for finding my childs food. I am very happy with your help of sending me that gift. I never forget that for all my long and short life of mine. My wife died on 7th August 2009. I was very sad about that and she left a very young child with 12 days old. By now she has one month, 6 days old. My child’s name is Chiedza and my wife’s name was Ester. Thank you for sending me the US$ to help my child,
Rueben Bote (senior tracker of wild dog project; worked years).
I’m afraid I have some sad news to report. The wife of our head tracker, Rueben, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly last week. We are all shocked and feel terribly sad for Rueben. Very sadly, she left behind a new-born baby girl – Rueben’s first daughter, who was born just two weeks before her mother died.
This means that, on-top of his personal grief, Rueben is struggling to cope with funeral expenses and compensation to her family, as well as having to buy powdered milk to feed his baby daughter. This is hard to come by in Zimbabwe and is imported from South Africa which makes it very expensive. We will do everything we can to help Rueben through this difficult time, including trying to buy the milk for his baby, and if anyone feels that they could help us with this, we would all be very grateful.
One tin of powdered milk, which lasts for one week costs US$5. Any donations made to the project in the next week I will put aside for Rueben and after that if you want your donation to go to helping Rueben and his daughter, please just leave a comment, and I will ensure it goes to him directly.
Rueben has been with the wild dog project for 13 years now. He is an extremely talented tracker, a hard worker and has become a good friend. Please help us to help him during this difficult time.
While we’ve been busy trying to remove snares from wild dogs, our camera traps have been working hard and recording some very cool puppy sightings. So just for a break from dead puppies and snared dogs (!) I thought I’d post some cute puppy pics from our camera traps.
Sadly due to being so caught up with other things, I’ve had very little time to sit at the dens and watch the pups. At least we are recording their numbers an movements via these camera traps though!
I mentioned in another post a while ago that I was concerned about some of the Maera pack pups after a lion was caught on camera at their den site. Today we had a good sighting of the dogs and confirmed that unfortunately there are only four puppies left – there were originally six. Nonetheless, the four that remain are utterly adorable and are confident and curious little fellows:
We watched them being fed by one of the adult males.
And just for interests sake, I thought I’d share the following photo with you, from one of our camera traps. The zebra passed right by the den – stayed there for about 20 minutes – but the dogs didn’t seem at all interested!
Time seems to have flown recently and already I see we are into the second week of July! So apologies for not saying this sooner, but I just wanted to say a huge thank you to those who supported our project in June: Antonio, Deborah (twice!) and William. Your support is greatly appreciated, especially as we are struggling to find funding during this global economic crisis. So many, many thanks from us all at the wild dog team and from the dogs themselves!
Forgive the infrequent posts at the moment – we are rushing around like mad things trying to keep up with the dogs as they all start to den and the pups start appearing. This is just a brief update of where we are now…
We’ve located 5 den sites so far: the four collared packs (Maera, Mapari, Bedford and Teddy) and one un-collared pack (Star). The Maera pack pups came out aboout 2-3 weeks ago, but I haven’t mangaged to see them again since they moved dens after the lion visited! I recently saw the puppies of the Bedford pack for the first time as well. We only saw 7 but camera trap photos show there to be at least 12. All very exciting, and they are such fun to watch!
The other packs have only recently denned down and so the pups are not yet out. Mapari pack will probably be next, followed by Star pack. The Teddy pack is quite late and only denned down about 4 days ago.
Having found those den sites, I am now able to ask the scouts to focus on other areas in the conservancy, so hopefully soon we should get a clearer picture of the other packs in the conservancy, and if we can find their den sites, we’ll have the chance to count them and photograph them as a baseline for the forthcoming year.
PS – I’ll conscript Rafael into writing some blogs soon, so you can see the project through a new pair of eyes!
I have recently been joined on the project by a wildlife biologist from the States, who has come to help out with the wild dogs for the next three months. I’ll leave him to introduce himself to you.
My name is Rafael Crespo, I was recently given a great oppertunity to join Rosemary in the African Wild Dog Project here in Zimbabwe. I am working in the day to day operations to learn more about these amazing predators. Like Rosemanry just mentioned I come from the States in which I did alot of work in the South Florida Everglades. I now join Rosemary halfway around the world to stay here for 3 months and help this project and myself grow. I am very eager to join, and to all who follow Rosemary’s passion of conserving these animals, I wish for you all to welcome myself as well.