A while ago one of the wild dogs in the conservancy was killed in a bizarre hunting accident. It was a female yearling from the Disney pack and it looks like she was jumping up either to clear a fallen log or perhaps playfully trying to catch a bird or dassie in the tree. Unfortunately she then got impaled on a sharp broken branch through her rear leg and abdomen, and ended up hanging upside down. Shame – a very horrible, and utterly bizarre accident.
It’s the second such accident we’ve recorded in the last few years, and it is always sad to lose an individual. But it’s nature I suppose, and as such it’s preferable to finding one dead in a snare or something, where humans are to blame.
Back to cute puppies and beautiful (alive) wild dogs soon!
I’m sad to report that our only collared wild dog in Gonarezhou National Park was recently found dead in a snare. We found the carcass last month, but she had been dead since the 7th July according to the information on her GPS collar.
This was an adult female known as Strops – part of the Mabalauta Pack in the southern part of Gonarezhou. Just before she died, she went walkabout…. Far out of her usual home range – up through the whole park, across the huge Save River, into Mozambique then back down again (see the points on the map below). At one stage she walked over 40km in 12 hours! Although we never actually saw her in the months preceding her death, these sorts of long distance movements are typical of a single sex dispersing group of wild dogs which have split from their natal pack and are moving off to look for a mate.
Strops was killed by a snare around her waist and must have starved to death in her trap. The bite marks on the logs and trees around the carcass and the damage to the indestructible snare cable itself bear witness to the horrific struggle and suffering she must have gone through before she died.
This happened only a few hundred meters from Gonarezhou’s eastern boundary with Mozambique. Unfortunately we find a lot of our problems come from Mozambique and they are difficult to address because of the need for international collaboration and cross-border law enforcement. Nonetheless, we are trying to address the problems in collaboration with the official authorities and hope that we will be able to reduce the amount of illegal activities along this boundary area.
I’m sad to report that we found the fresh carcass of one of our wild dogs today – killed by a car on the main tarmac road to the north of the conservancy.
African wild dog killed by a vehicle
It was one of last year’s pups – a young male of the Bedford pack that we named Dumble (short for Dumbledore in the hope that one day he would grow up to be a wise alpha male!). Dumble was part of the Bedford Bachelor group – the ones metioned in the last post for their wide-ranging movements in search of females… It seems that their search took them right up to the north of the conservancy yesterday evening, and through the fence and out of the conservancy.
African wild dog carcass - hit by a vehicle
We were unable to pick up a signal from the pack’s collar, and just have to hope that the dogs come back into the conservancy before getting themselves into trouble in the villages, or suffering further road casualties. Fortunately the pack has a GPS collar, so if they do come back, we will be able to see where they went.
We rarely record road-kill as a cause of death of wild dogs in our area, although this is one of the major causes of death for wild dogs around Hwange National Park. Nonetheless it may be worth getting more of these signs put up…
Wild Dog Crossing - Warning Sign
I will let you know if/when the pack returns to the conservancy, and fingers crossed they will do so with no further losses.
I’m sad to report we’ve lost another one of the dogs to snaring. The scouts found the carcass during an ambush of some well-known commercial poachers on one of the conservancy properties. It was still fresh enough for us to identify it as one of the adult males from the Mapari pack. Ironically, he was actually called ‘Snare’, having escaped from a snare before, although he still bore the scar around his neck. This time round he wasn’t so lucky: he was caught around both his back legs and – from the destruction of the vegetation around where he was caught – must have died a very slow and painful death. Poor dog. He was only 3 years old as well.
His carcass was hidden under a bush:
The good news is that they at least caught some of the poachers, and cleared 98 snares from the area. Unfortunately it was too late for a few impala as well who were also caught in these snares.
We took the carcass back to the car and have taken the skull for measurements, and other samples for genetic analysis. Only time will tell what impact this tragedy will have on the denning of the pack this year.