Tag Archives: African Wild Dogs

Happy, Healthy Domestics Dogs with Human Welfare Benefits and Positive Consequences for African Wild Dogs!

Last month, in collaboration with Vets for Animal Welfare Zimbabwe (VAWZ) and the District Veterinary Department, we held a rabies vaccination campaign in Bikita District situated on the western boundary of the Savé Valley Conservancy. This was in response to reports of children dying from the virus and adults being bitten by suspected rabid domestic stray dogs in the area.

We operated at eight stations throughout the campaign and vaccinated a total of 969 domestic dogs. However, given that there are estimated to be almost 20 000 domestic dogs in just Bikita District alone, we most certainly have our work cut out for us! Given the close proximity of these communities to the wildlife in the conservancy, a rabies outbreak could not only be devastating for our African wild dog population, but many other wildlife species that are highly susceptible to the virus.

People arrive with their dogs in tow

People arrive with their dogs in tow


One man holds his dog whilst the vaccine is administered


Three dogs waiting their turn


Dogs of all shapes and sizes were vaccinated

Given the remoteness of these areas, operations like this are no small feat, and people often have to travel far distances to bring their animals to the nearest allocated site for vaccinations. This means some interesting modes of transport for the animals!


A novel use for a shopping basket


This must have been hard work in the midday heat, but we’re sure the pets enjoyed the scenic ‘drive’

We hope as word spreads and the people come to understand the benefit of these campaigns, not only for wildlife, but for their health and that of their domestic dogs too, we will have even greater support for the campaigns and a bigger ‘turnout’ of domestic dogs. We are hoping to carry out a follow up campaign in Mahenye (where we held an initial campaign in February this year) before the end of the year.


The team in action


A few successfully vaccinated dogs rest in the shade waiting for their ‘friends’ to be vaccinated

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 (https://www.facebook.com/AfricanWildlifeConservationFund) 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


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: http://www.facebook.com/pages/A-Celebration-of-Painted-Wolves.


Looking forward to the denning season

Hi folks,

Over the last month we’ve been witnessing mating in the various wild dog packs in the Save Valley Conservancy.  We’re really looking forward to the denning season, when we hope we’ll get lots more pups.

Here’s what we have to look forward to :).  Photos are courtesy of Trent Binford-Walsh







We should be starting to notice pregnancy in the alpha females any day now, and I’ll be sure to update you as soon as we do!

Why don’t you consider a trip to Chishakwe Ranch where the AWCF field team is based to see this for yourself?

Back soon,


Follow us on Facebook

Hi Folk,

I’ll keep this blog up to date as much as I can, but for short regular updates and load of great pictures and stories, please visit and ‘like’ our facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/AfricanWildlifeConservationFund



Happy Readers Literacy Workshop

Hi folks,

As you’ll have seen from the last post, there is an urgent need to improve the literacy levels in rural primary schools in Zimbabwe.  The fact is that most children can barely read by the time they leave primary school (12/13 years old).  What chance will these children have in life??

It’s not their fault – it’s not that they are stupid or don’t pay attention in lessons.  It’s not always the case that the teachers don’t care or don’t know how to teach.  It’s because they have nothing to learn with.  How can you learn to read a book without a book??  And even if you have a book, if you haven’t been taught to read through a proper literacy training program, you cant just pick it up and read it.

Teaching someone to read is no easy job.  And it’s impossible without the right resources.

We have therefore teamed up with Happy Readers to try and do something about this.  We recently provided sets of the nine Level 1 Literacy Books to eight more schools around Save Valley Conservancy and Gonarezhou.

And we then held a workshop to train the teachers in how to use the resource, and why it works.  We had a great representation from the 12 schools that now have the books, and were also honored by the presence of the District Education Officer from Chipinge District and representatives from the Chiredzi and Buhera DEO offices.



Conor O’Beirne from Happy Readers came down to do the workshop:


The teachers listened attentively and by all accounts were thrilled with the concept of the scheme



A game towards the end got everyone involved and showed what fun learning to read can be, when it’s done right:


Finally, it was time for the presentation of the books:

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Malilangwe Trust also bought the books for two of their schools, so in total we were able to hand out books for 10 more schools!  Literacy tests have been conducted in the schools, and we look forward to seeing the progress next year.

Back soon,




AWCF’s Literacy Training Program Continues

African Wildlife Conservation Fund has teamed up with Happy Readers to try and get literacy books into the rural schools surrounding Save Valley Conservancy and Gonarezhou National Park as part of our education and outreach program.

From initial literacy testing, it was clear that there was a serious need for this:  even students towards the end of their primary school career were unable to read at all.  And we are told by secondary schools teachers that they are also struggling with very high levels of complete illiteracy in their schools.

Just for a minute try and imagine your life if you couldn’t read… Imagine all those opportunities that you would not have had or been able to take advantage of.  Imagine what a struggle it would be to do anything with your life.  Imagine how you would have no alternative than to believe everything you are told, and no alternative than to depend on the natural resources around you for survival.

If you cannot read, you cannot learn, and if you cannot learn, you cannot change your life…

It’s a tragedy that Zimbabwe, which once had one of the highest literacy levels in Africa and one of the best education systems in the world, has now collapsed to such an extent that we see such shocking figures:

screen shot of test results

Thanks to funding from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund we were recently able to purchase Happy Reader level 1 books for eight more of the primary schools around the key wildlife areas.  Together with the two schools we did last year, and two schools that Malilangwe Trust has sponsored, the books are now in twelve schools in the area.  Since we work with 123 primary schools, we still have a way to go, but we’ve made a start and will have changed the lives of those students, without a doubt.

Last week, with the support of the District Education Officers of the four districts involved in the program at this stage, we held a training workshop for the teachers to use the scheme.  I’ll post more about that workshop in the next post.


The Happy Reader Books use use animals as characters and help the children to relate to wild animals as individuals and friends rather than simply a food source.  As the levels progress, they bring in basic conservation messages.  We believe that this program (aimed at Grades 1 & 2s primarily) will complement our environmental education programs in the higher grades, thus helping us achieve our conservation goals as well.

The scheme has been shown to be successful in many of the areas where it has been implemented, and is so popular with teachers that virtually every single private primary school in Zimbabwe has bought the books.  We just hope that we can help those poor rural schools to get the same opportunities.

If anyone can help – please click on DONATE on the right hand side of this page.  Your money will go straight to the African Wildlife Conservation Fund via a safe and secure method (PayPal) and you can specify that you want it to be used for literacy books.

There are very few better ways to make a real difference to people’s lives.

Thank you!


African wild dogs show off their wonderful playful nature

Hi folks,

I just wanted to share with you a few photos I took recently whilst watching the Batanai Pack in the Save Valley Conservancy.  The Batanai Pack is still 30 dogs, having had 12 pups last year and 100% pup survival to date!


The 12 pups are now about 9 months old and are wonderfully charismatic little fellows; bold and beautiful.  And full of energy!!!

They found me very interesting:



And then once they had tired of checking me out, they did what wild dog pups do…. played!!


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Just a wonderful, wonderful sight to watch.  I was smiling for the rest of the day!  It’s always great to get a chance to get out of the office and spend time with the dogs. and sightings like this remind us just why we are working so hard to conserve this magnificent species.

How can anyone seriously still consider these vermin?


A story of survival against the odds

In the southern part of the Save Valley Conservancy lives a pack of African wild dogs known as the Mambira Pack.  Shortly before Christmas last year, the pack ran into an area set with lethal wire snares, presumably targeted at killing impala for meat.  Sadly, these indiscriminate wire traps caught a young wild dog female instead.

This beautiful and energetic wild dog, known as Eclipse, was born in 2011 and was one of only two surviving pups from that litter.  Together with her sister Luna, these two dogs helped their small pack raise another litter of pups in 2012, making the pack ten individuals in total.

And then calamity struck…. Eclipse was caught round her neck in a wire snare which only pulled tighter the harder she struggled to get free.  And what a struggle it must have been – even with good wire cutters, cutting through the wire that these snares are made of is virtually impossible.  For an animal to break out of the snare, simply by pulling and twisting with all the pressure on the neck, is close to a miracle.  Nonetheless, Eclipse is a fighter, and managed to tear her way out of the trap.  But the damage was done and the wire stayed wrapped tight around her neck.


Not only was it round her neck, but the sharpened end where the wire had broken off had pierced her jaw and cheek, effectively pinning her head down and making it extremely painful to move her head from side to side.

Nonetheless, with the help of her close family pack members she survived…  And she survived right up until Saturday 9th February when we finally (after a lot of effort by several different people) managed to get a dart into her to immobilize her to remove the snare.

Although we knew it was bad, just how bad was only apparent when we could handle her.  The wide wound on the back of the neck was fairly superficial fortunately, but several knots in the wire underneath had made a bit of a mess of the throat area, although fortunately not cutting deep enough to sever the wind pipe.


Using a combination of Rueben and Cain’s strength, they managed to cut the wire off and enabled me to treat the wound:


With the wire off, we set about cleaning the wound thoroughly and doing our best to prevent infection with a hefty dose of long acting penicillin.



Incredibly, although she was very thin, her condition was not otherwise too bad, and she maintained a good pulse rate and breathing throughout the immobilization.  Towards the end of the procedure, her temperature started to drop (having been initially too high!), so we moved her into the late-afternoon sun to warm up as she slowly came round from her drugged sleep.  This emphasized quite how thin she had become…


Nonetheless, with her incredible resilience, Eclipse recovered well from the immobilization and even while she was still a bit woozy, she was starting to experiment with moving her head around.  We could almost hear her thinking “this feels better”!

BUT – all was not well.  Unfortunately, during the procedure, the rest of the pack had moved off, and we could not even pick up their signal, indicating they had gone far away.  In her weakened state, and having just woken up from an anesthetic, she was very vulnerable, with a limited chance of making it through the night alone.  All we could do was stay with her until it was dark (by which stage at least she was moving properly, and had headed off into the bush) and then leave her and hope she managed to re-join her pack over night.

Sadly, the next morning, the pack was located >15kms away, and Eclipse was not with them….  We returned to where we had darted her and searched all around, but found no sign of her, either alive or dead.  Encouragingly we also did not find any tracks of larger predators (which would have killed her had they found her) or vultures…  But it still wasn’t the news we were hoping for.

The following morning, we struggled to find the pack again, but eventually Rueben found them, and radioed me with a message… he’d located the pack and there were once again 10 dogs!!! Eclipse had re-joined the pack, and not only that she was, according to Rueben, looking “fat and strong”!!


That news absolutely made my week!  What a relief and what good news for Eclipse and her pack.  I’ve no doubt that having got over that hurdle and reunited with her pack, she will make a full recovery.  One day she may even become the alpha female of her own pack – and what an ending to this story that would be!