2014? It’s going to be wild!

Yes, we know, we’ve been a bit quiet. While we’d love to say it’s because we’ve all been on holiday, quite the opposite is true!

There is lots happening in our world and in the realms of the magnificent creatures we’ve dedicated ourselves (our  lives) to helping. We have made lots of new friends, we have said fond farewells to others,  we have  begun training  to run a race  (see our post on the Two Oceans Marathon!) ,  we  have furthered our reach through the  ever-expanding branches of social media, we have some big plans and we have lots to  share with you all! And of course, the dogs have been busy  too!

We will, over the next few weeks’ worth of posts, be looking back on  the year that was 2013 and sharing with you both our  triumphs and  defeats and using them all to inform the next 12 months ahead. And by all indications –  it’s going to  be WILD! (in the best  sense of the  word,  of course.)

2014 - we're ready!

Another beautiful sunset at Hammond Ranch

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!



Sisters Doing it For Themselves!

Hi all,

We have three packs (Pita, Mapura and Chapungu) denning rather late in the year in the Save Valley Conservancy. Wild dogs normally only breed once a year when they occupy a den for three months during June-August. These are the second denning events for Mapura and Pita Packs for this year. The three new litters could potentially contribute an additional 14 dogs to the conservancy’s population, if survival is good. Since the start of the denning season we have lost 50% of our pups with highest mortality being after the wild dogs have left the den and are more vulnerable to snare poaching and lion predation. Chapungu Pack, consisting of two females, were first sighted in September this year and later identified to be two sisters from the late Maera Pack of the conservancy. They were both pups in 2010 and were last sighted in 2011. We have no idea who the alpha male was, or where he is now, but the two sisters appear to be successfully raising four pups. However, they have their fair share of obstacles. On the recent den cameras the  alpha female has two puncture wounds on her left side, evidence of a potential failed lion attack, and a lioness was sighted moving through the den area a couple of times.


LionFortunately, there are still four pups and the sister of the alpha female seems to be taking good care of the alpha’s injuries and is regularly seen licking the wounds. This will help to keep the wounds clean and clear of infection allowing the injuries time to heal well. We will continue to monitor the progress of the female and the survival of the pups and hope that these two sisters will be able to successfully raise and protect the pups against potential threats. A very difficult task for two wild dogs who rely on the cooperative nature and power of their pack to successfully hunt, feed and protect their young.



More soon!

“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!



Wild Dog Dies from Snare Along the Western Boundary of Save Valley Conservancy

Morning all,

We received some disappointing news yesterday afternoon. Italy, one of collared males from the Crocodile pack was found dead from a snare. We have had no visual of Crocodile or Orongo packs for almost a month now, and for the past few weeks finding these packs has been a priority for our scouts. Post denning the packs return to their normal wide-ranging habits making them incresingly difficult to track, even with telemetry. Yesterday afternoon the scouts radioed and reported they had found Italy, from the Crocodile pack, dead from a snare. Italy had been dead a while, nothing remained of his body except an almost totally decayed head. He was found outside the conservancy in Village 31B. The snare was still attached to the tree indicating that he was unable to break free (his back teeth are still intact indicating he did not attempt to/couldn’t chew through the snare to break free). He must have died a very terrible death attached to the tree and later been scavenged off. It is unbelievable to see what such a beautiful and unique animal has been reduced to purely as a result of careless human behaviour.



The scouts reported the rest of the pack at 9 adults and 6 pups. This means 2 more adults are unaccounted for, and the pack has now lost 6 of their 12 pups since they finished denning. Our scouts are currently out in the field following up on the rest of the pack, checking for other snared individuals or injuries, and taking good ID shots so we can identify the missing individuals. Even with our constant monitoring and dedicated team we sometimes cannot find snared dogs before it is too late. Hopefully with the right support we can continue to strengthen our anti-poaching initiatives and educate local landowners and communities on the critical impact indiscriminate snaring has on wild dog survival in the Save Valley Conservancy and surrounds.

More soon,



Wild dog Collared in Save Valley Conservancy

Hi there,

We have been rather quiet of late, things are slowly calming down as the denning season draws to close. However, wild dogs rarely sit still for too long thus neither can we! A few weeks ago we collared one of our female wild dogs, always an exhilarating experience and an opportunity to become even more familiar with the animals.


Cain, our scout, radioed and said he had the Batanai pack visual. Now if you remember, Shreddy who recently died of a snare was part of the Batanai pack. Around the same time we found Shreddy dead the pack had moved from their den and thereafter our scouts had a hard time finding them. Shreddy was one of two collared males in the pack. It had been almost three weeks since we had received any report of this pack, so naturally we were all very excited when we heard that Cain had found the pack resting under a large baobab. Rosemary decided this would be a good opportunity to try and collar another individual in this pack. Rosemary darts off the back of the scouts’ bikes. The dogs are relaxed to the sound of the scouts’ bikes enabling Rosemary to get nice and close for efficient darting.


The dog we collared is called CC (named so after two marks on her back right leg that look like two C’s next to eachother). We fitted the collar and took a small piece of ear and blood samples for genetics. We stayed with her until she was fully recovered and Cain found her the next day back with the pack and doing well! Collars are not only a way for us to locate and keep track of our packs, but GPS and Satelite collars enable us to gather information on home ranges and better understand how the packs in Save Valley Conservancy utilise the available space. Further, data from wild dog GPS collars can be used to locate snare lines (after noticing snare wounds on the wild dogs).

Thats all for now, but it is an interesting time in the conservancy, we tentatively watch how the pups fair after the denning season and how pack dynamics may change. More soon!



AWCF article on the Southern Fried Science page

Hi Everyone
Here’s a link to an article Rosemary wrote on the Southern Fried Science conservation biology page.It gives an update on the work we do at AWCF and on the current status of wild dogs. Take a look.




Advert for Volunteer Media and Communications Officer


The African Wildlife Conservation Fund (www.africanwildlifeconservationfund.org) is looking for a volunteer to help with media / PR and fundraising. We are a small, non-profit organization based administratively in the US but with all field programs based in Zimbabwe. Our mission is to promote the long-term sustainability of healthy wildlife populations via research and educational partnerships with land owners and community members, natural resource managers, conservationists, and governments.

The volunteer post can blion-in-a-treee based anywhere in the world where there is reliable access to fast internet. The volunteer would be welcome to come and visit the project for two weeks at the beginning of the job to become familiar with the breadth and details of our projects (but would have to cover the cost of their own flights). More information on our projects can be found at www.africanwildlifeconservationfund.org/projects. Fluency in English is mandatory and another language would be viewed favourably.


Picture2The incumbent must have excellent computer skills, including editing and manipulating video footage and good familiarity with all social media sites. The successful applicant would need to be innovative with ideas about advertising and marketing the project and fundraising for the various programs. Examples of jobs to do include writing guest blogs; editing, uploading and widely promoting video footage; establishing and updating visual fundraising targets on our website and blog, setting up and maintaining an Amazon wish list; starting up and running innovative fundraising drives and projects using social media; and assisting with getting articles into popular press.

Good contacts in the media, wildlife or business worlds would thus be advantageous. A passion for carnivore conservation and a keen desire to help promote AWCF’s programs in a variety of different ways is essential.

This is an excellent opportunity to help with the conservation of Africa’s large carnivores without having to relocate.

This is not a full time position, and could easily be done in addition to another job, or as part of retirement. Additional field trips to the project would be possible. The position is non-salaried.


Please email [email protected] with a CV and a short cover note about why you’d like to do the job and what you can bring to the project, by the 30th September 2013.

Snaring Claims Another Wild Dog

Hi All,


We have some disappointing and very frustrating news. One of collared males from the Batanai pack, Shreddy, was found dead and badly snared last week. The snare was made from very thick and durable wire and had pulled tightly around the dog’s neck unfortunately creating a fatal wound. It is unknown when Shreddy acquired the snare, and we would probably never have found him had he not been collared as he was found some distance from the den site and the rest of the pack. It makes one wonder how many wild dogs suffer and die slowly as a result of indiscriminate and thoughtless snaring. Shreddy had broken all of his back teeth, molars and premolars, most probably in an effort to chew through the snare and fight for his life.



The wide-ranging nature of wild dogs makes them easy targets for snares. Wild dogs are accidentally caught in snares that are set on the edges of protected areas and along fences to capture wild ungulates for personal consumption, or the bush-meat trade.


We followed up with the rest of the pack the next day and are glad to report that no other dogs were injured or snared and there are still 10 healthy pups. Our scouts have since done a sweep of the area in an effort to reduce any potential future snaring incidents.