Category Archives: zimbabwe

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!

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

USD 12 500 raised for African wild dog conservation!

It’s been just over a month since our 50 dedicated athletes ran 21km for the African Wildlife Conservation Fund and African wild dog conservation. Now that the dust has settled, a bit of body fat been regained and tired muscles rested, it is almost all too easy to return to everyday life and forget that the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon fundraising event ever happened.

However, we have most certainly not forgotten, and never will forget, the enthusiasm and generosity of our runners (and all their supporters!). Whilst the event itself lasts only a day, the funds raised and support gathered will sustain our work and passion for conservation well into the future! It was an absolute pleasure to meet so many like-minded individuals, and make new friends of the African Wildlife Conservation Fund. We hope you did not only come to appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of an endangered species, but that you achieved your personal goals and had a successful event.

P1040759 Sitting


The funds raised exceeded our expectations and we really cannot thank enough everyone who helped make this event a success! With very limited reliable funding we rely heavily on the generosity of individuals, and more often than not strangers, to be able to continue and strengthen our conservation efforts. Thank you for supplying us with the means to bring about positive change and conservation benefits in Zimbabwe, not only for African wild dogs, but wildlife and human populations alike.

See you all next year, and until then… wear your ears proudly!

Haaaaaahooooo woooof!


“I learnt from the best” – AWCF Attachment Student Shares Her Experience

Hi all,

This is truly an inspiring read. Nobesuthu Ngwenya, a student at the National University of Science and Technology, spent a year with AWCF and the Lowveld Wild Dog Project learning all about field-based conservation of large carnivores in south-east Zimbabwe. Below is what she has to say about her experience. It is truly encouraging to read about her time with AWCF, and how she has come to have an enriched understanding of wildlife conservation and an appreciation for natural resources. It was a pleasure having Nobesuthu as part of the AWCF team and we wish her only the very best in all her future endeavours!


Time moves very fast, it’s already been a year and attachment year is over. It’s been a great experience working with AWCF. I have learnt a lot in the project and had the feel of the real working environment.

 I am very grateful to Dr Rosemary Groom for giving me the opportunity to join the project and for all that I know about wildlife in the field today. She also made it possible for me to do my project with AWCF. If it weren’t for her guidance and persistent help, my attachment and project would not have been a success. Special thanks to the AWCF team, the scouts and the community liaison officer, who never got tired of helping me and answering all the questions I had with my first experience in the field.

 Working with AWCF, I learnt a lot about conservation and wildlife management and with no doubt, I will carry the flag of conservation wherever I go and share it, especially in my country, where many people do not understand the need to conserve and protect our wildlife and resources.


 I enjoyed every moment with the lowveld wild dog project all that was there to learn, from data collection, game count, education outreach programs, wild dog tracking, de-snaring and darting, collecting blood and tissue samples, vehicle and motorbike maintenance, workshops, human and wildlife conflicts. I learnt a lot so much that if I were to list it all, the whole web will be filled up.

 To mention a few exciting moments; we had darted a snared wild dog to remove the snare. The procedure went well and I was given the chance to learn how to inject the anti-dote. It was so exciting as it was the first time I ever held an injection.


I also had my first experience of sleeping in the tent whilst at Gonarezhou National Park, tracking for wild dogs. We had wild cats coming close to the tents…this was scary but something worth experiencing… Then finally, the indescribable period of the denning season, the most remarkable wild dog pups, though there were devastating moments when they faced predation by lions and hyenas.

 There were also pressing situations which I learnt a lot from, especially pertaining to human and wildlife conflicts. There were situations were domestic animals from villages around the conservancy were preyed on by wild dogs, and such situations had to be dealt with diplomatically. It was just amazing how little people knew about wildlife in the surrounding villages. They had no knowledge about wild dogs and did not understand their importance in the wild.


 To sum up my attachment period, I must say, a conservationist mind has been created in me, and I am proud to say that, I learnt from the best.


Playing Pups


We just had to share this series of photos with you all. The last two surviving pups from Mapura pack’s alpha litter thoroughly enjoying themselves not far from the den where Ursula is busy nursing a second litter for this year. After the devastating loss of nine pups shortly after the pack stopped denning, a second litter is very welcome and good news. What an absolute pleasure to have the pack denning again practically on our doorstep! We cannot wait to watch how the big and little pups interact and what mischievous antics they get up to.

Mapura pups playing

We hope you enjoy these as much as we do. Have a good week!



Hi everyone,

We had a wonderful sighting of the Crocodile Pack on Tuesday morning and we just wanted to share our experience with you. The pack is doing so well with what looks to be 12 healthy and fit pups! It is hard to get an accurate count as there are so many heads and bottoms everywhere! The pups are at a wonderfully inquisitive and playful stage, moving about the den and becoming familiar with the new world around them. As soon as the pack had returned from their hunt, the pups all piled out of the den and began to feed on the regurgitated food from the adults. It was such a special sighting, and reminded us why we are doing all we can to conserve this unique and intriguing species.

A few pictures of the playful pups below!


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Lions plague denning African wild dogs

Wild dogs in the Savé Valley Conservancy face great challenges from their greatest competitors, lions and hyenas. The denning season is when the effects on the wild dog population are most visible.

This pack of four dogs (split from the Batanai pack of 30 at the beginning of the denning season) has been disturbed by lions at their den from the time they started denning. On the 1st of June when we went to set up camera traps at the den, we found a dead young male lion, with most of its body in the hole where the pups and the alpha female were!!

dead lion at den_1 June 2013


This lion was suspected to be a lone individual, separated from the pride and could have been looking for easy prey. We managed to pull out the lion carcass with the help from the guys from Sango Ranch.

Clearing off dead lion

Dead lion after being pulled out


To our relief, the alpha female wild dog jumped out of the hole and ran off as we drove away.  We have yet to see the fate of pups, but mum being alive and well is a good sign….  We are just praying that the lion wasn’t sick and hasn’t transmitted any disease to the wild dogs.  We’ll be keeping a very close eye on them.

More on lions at this den site coming soon!