Third time lucky! After 3 days’ worth of attempts, we were finally successful, yesterday, in installing a collar on a member of the Mapari Pack, a male Wild Dog called Darkie. Since Sandy’s sad death by snaring just over a month ago, we have had very little information about the Mapari Pack, as there has been no radio-collared individual in the pack to help us locate and study them.
Around 1st December, a pack of Wild Dogs was spotted quite close to our research base. They were resting in the shade by a water-hole in the heat of the day, and stayed there long enough for us to receive the message and reach that location. It turned out to be the Mapari Pack, travelling unusually far south, and that and subsequent sightings have been the best views we have had of the pack since the denning season, so we have in the last couple of days been able to build up a database of individual ID photographs for all the pups as well as the adults. It turns out that currently the Mapari Pack comprises a fascinating mixture of adults originating from the Star Pack, ‘Leon’s’ Pack, and the Sango Six-Pack within the last 6 months. This provides us with fascinating information about the mobility of Wild Dogs.
We were blessed to receive the assistance of the Tikki Hywood Trust who were generous enough to volunteer their time to help us with the darting when one of their licensed team members (Ellen Connelly) was down in the conservancy. Without their generous donation of time and expertise, this darting would have been a lot harder to organise and we may have missed this valuable opportunity. Trying to find un-collared packs in not easy!!
The Mapari Pack have been quite relaxed around our vehicle as we’ve approached them for darting attempts the last couple of days. We were able to get within the 25 metre darting range and shoot a dart at Darkie, who was in an appropriate position. He moved as soon as he heard the dart gun’s ‘pop!’ and so the dart hit him in the tail rather than the muscle of the back leg. However, somewhat to our surprise, he was staggering a few moments later and the immobilisation drugs soon took full effect, allowing us to install his collar, take hair and tissue and blood samples, and weigh and measure his body and teeth, all the while keeping his eyes covered with a blindfold and spraying him with cool water to prevent overheating.The rest of the pack moved off slowly as we approached the immobilized Darkie:
It was a busy scene with everyone helping as we did what was needed:
When he shook his head to shake off the water-droplets, we knew he was coming round from the ketamine—and in moments he had leapt up and run away, a very fast recovery. For a couple of minutes he was disoriented and looked dizzy, but he was soon able to move in a straight line and he moved around the water-hole looking for the rest of his pack. We left him lying in the shade near where the pack were when we found them. He was reunited with the rest of his pack in a short time, as we returned to check on the pack a couple of hours later and found them all lying together, with Darkie, in the shade of a big baobab.
This morning Darkie was behaving normally, and with the aid of his new radio-collar, we were able to locate the Mapari Pack and watch him and the others playing and resting in the Msaize River.
Roy & Rosemary