Tag Archives: Gonarezhou National Park

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…

Crocodile_Humani (11)

Crocodile pack enjoying the shade


Mapura pack relaxing at the waters edge


Inquisitive yearling

Mbungo_Humani (29)

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


Collared wild dog snared in Gonarezhou National Park

Hi folks,

I’m sad to report that we recently found the carcass of one of our collared wild dogs in Gonarezhou National Park.  The young male was called Mowgli and was part of the Machaniwa pack.  It was clear when his carcass was recovered that he had died of a snare wound – the wire was still attached to the neck bones of the carcass.


It’s the second collared dog we have found snared within a couple of kms of the Mozambique boundary, illustrating the potentially significant anthropogenic mortality these dogs are facing in this area.  Obviously we are only finding the carcasses of collared ones, because of the collar signal, but there is little doubt that other individuals are also being killed as well.


The Machaniwa Pack was 7 adults and 7 pups in August last year.  By December, there were only 12.  The same day we found the carcass, we also saw some members of the pack – but only five.  We are hoping this was just a temporary break-away group (it was only last years pups), but otherwise it’s very concerning news for the pack.

Unfortunately, Mowgli was the only collared dog in the pack and so now we face the challenge of fitting another collar to the pack, so we can keep a track of them, and understand more about the threats they face.  Unfortunately that is no small task in that huge, wild area…


Wild dogs in Gonarezhou originate from Save Valley!

Hi folks,

We recently got photos of a pack of wild dogs living in the very south of Gonarezhou National Park.  It was Rueben that saw the pack first and took the photos, and you can imagine my excitement when I looked through them and immediately recognised some of the adults as coming from Save Valley Conservancy!

The pack is 18 dogs; 4 adults, 2 yearlings and 12 pups.  Amazingly, all four adults are from Save Valley Conservancy, about 200km north of where they were spotted!  Three are male siblings who were born in 2009 and disappeared in 2010.  They are Sooty, Flint and Bubbles, and were some of the first dogs I ever got to know when I started working here, so it was SO nice to see them again!  The adult female they are with is named Aludra and was last seen in the south of SVC in 2009.

The pups and yearlings in this pack are absolutely stunning:

A few days later, we managed to get a collar onto this pack, which is fantastic.  We collared Sooty with a satellite collar, so will be able to track the pack’s movements even if they continue their southerly migration into South Africa!

The immobilisation went well, and he recovered nicely and soon joined up with the rest of his pack who were waiting for him a short distance away.

Around this time, some visitors to the park also saw this pack and managed to get a great video of them, interacting with hyenas over a kill.  Have a look at the video by clicking here (courtesy of Media Matrix).

I’ll let you know how the pack gets on.

Back soon,


Amazing encounter: snake eating a frog

Hi folks,

I was at Chipinda Pools recently, the headquarters of the stunning Gonarezhou National Park, and happened to see an amazing wildlife drama played out in front of me.  I was alerted by the sound of the frog chirping, as this beautiful striped bellied sand snake got hold of its leg.  The pictures below tell the story themselves. Nature is just amazing!

Eventually the frog (identified by Simon as a plain grass frog – Ptychadena anchietae) disappeared entirely and the snake, not even looking too bumpy and bulky, slithered off to digest its meal.

Back soon,


African wild dogs in Gonarezhou – Part 2

Hi folks,

Well as I mentioned in the last post, we recently managed to identify at least seven different wild dog packs in the wild and beautiful 5000km2 Gonarezhou National Park.  Here are some photos of some of them:

The Gulugi Pack: 4 adults, 6 pups

The Bopomela Pack: 7 adults

The Chalanda Pack: 9 adults, 9 pups

We managed to fit two collars to the Chalanda pack; one GPS collar and one VHF.  This pack lives right on the Mozambique boundary of the park, in such a remote area it’s unlikely they would have seen more than a handful of people.  They were certainly very wild!   It took us a week of trying all sorts of things, but eventually we got close enough for me to put a dart in. And not just one, but two.  Luck was definitely on our side!

Being able to monitor the pack’s survival and track their movements across into Mozambique will provide us with extremely important information about cross-border movements and threats outside the park.  The collars will also help us understand how they survive where they do, how successfully they raise their pups and if the pack is acting as a source population for areas in Mozambique.

The other pack we managed to collar is the Machaniwa pack, also living right on the Mozambique boundary in the north of the park.  This pack was denning at the top of a big cliff, so we couldn’t get anywhere near them in a vehicle and approaching on foot is hopeless (although we did try a few times – I still ache from climbing that cliff!!).  So we had to make a plan 25C and eventually got a lucky dart in, thanks to a loudspeaker system, sounds of a dying buffalo calf and wild dog hoo call – and the curiosity of the dogs!  We’ve called him Mowgli.

I’m heading back into the park tomorrow, and will hopefully have more news on some of the other packs when I come out again next week.

Back soon,




African wild dogs in Gonarezhou – Part 1

Hi folks,

As you know, I’ve spent most of the last two months working in Gonarezhou National Park, right in the south east corner of Zimbabwe, trying to get a better understanding of the park’s wild dog population.  I haven’t yet done any proper data analysis or fancy statistics, but just from what we have seen, it seems the population there is doing really well.  Which is just great, and very exciting!!

It’s not an easy place to work, and the relative scarcity of roads, abundance of stroppy elephants, rough terrain and restricted water availability all make it quite a challenge to do anything there, let along track wide ranging wild dogs.

Nonetheless, luck was on our side, and in the last couple of months we have recorded at least seven different wild dog packs – almost certainly nine – and have even managed to collar a couple of the packs.  I’ll post about that in installment 2, but here is a summary of what we have found so far.

Despite starting relatively late in the denning season, we managed to find the den sites for five different packs, and photographed two others.   Interestingly, the dens of two packs were in caves on rocky hillsides or cliffs;

At three of the dens, the pups were still very small when we found them, as these camera trap pictures show;

We were able to spend some time at the den of one of the packs, the Chalanda Pack, and I managed to get these photos of their pups – there are nine in total, and they are very bold, playful little fellows:

Of the seven packs we have confirmed, six have been in the northern half of the park.  The den of the seventh pack we found when we were finishing off the spoor survey in the south of the park, and evidence suggests it is certainly not the only pack down there; we just ran out of time to keep looking!  We put camera traps up at the den and I will be checking that next week.  At this stage we have no idea of the number of adults or the number or age of pups in that pack, but hopefully should have news on them soon.

So, lots of large, healthy, successfully breeding packs of wild dogs in Gonarezhou, which is wonderful.  I’ll post more on the other packs and our collaring efforts in the next post.

Back soon,



Adventures in Gonarezhou

Hi Folks,

As you know I am briefly back from a few months of fieldwork in the stunning but wild Gonarezhou National Park.

We were doing the annual carnivore spoor survey as well as looking for wild dog tracks that might lead us to finding a pack, or better yet a den site.  Some of the roads were a little tricky to navigate… but we got through in the end:

We found ourselves in some beautiful places along the way – this is one of my favorite views in the park.  It also made a good lunch spot and a great place to track from!

We were fortunate enough to see quite a lot of wildlife in the park, including many, many elephant herds, zebras, giraffes, eland, jackals, ostrich, buffalo, impala, wildebeest, one leopard and  three porcupines!  And of course an abundance of incredible bird life.

I love porcupines, so it was a real treat to see them in the day;

We didn’t pick up as many lion tracks as we would have hoped, although we did hear them on a couple of nights, and it seems their population may not be picking up as much as we thought.  Hyenas we heard every night – that’s one species that certainly seems to be doing well in the park!  Especially from this campsite, where they were all around us from evening until morning.

And of course the wild dogs… we still have a way to go to fully understand what the park’s population is, but signs are encouraging.  We found tracks throughout the area we were working in, and plenty of signs of successfully breeding packs.  Hopefully over the next few months we will be able to establish whether these dogs are in fact linked with the population in Kruger National Park as well.

Back soon,


Wild dog pups in Gonarezhou

Hi folks,

Sorry for being quiet, I’ve been in Gonarezhou National Park for the past few weeks.  We’ve been doing a load of field work, including looking for wild dogs and dens, which is always a challenge in that huge area of wilderness.  But we’ve manged to find a couple of packs; one that had finished denning, and one that has just started.

The latter is in a very remote area right in the center of the park, and Rueben did an absolutely amazing tracking job to find them:

When we eventually found the den (to huge excitement I assure you!); the adults did what adults do – barked and ran away – but we were treated to a wonderful sight of the adorable pups curled up in the den entrance.  How cute is this…?!

If anyone wants to try and count them, let me know what you come up with.  “A bunch” is about as good as I get 🙂


We’ve put camera traps up to help us get a better idea of the number of adults in the pack, and to start getting a photographic identikit together.  We’ve got a while to sort out that pack though, fortunately.  By the looks of things the pups are only about 3 weeks old, so they will be denning for another 6 to 8 weeks.

More news from the park soon,



PS – Don’t forget to buy your copy of Underdogs  – the awesome wild dog book by Neil Aldridge. Click here to buy a copy and support our project at the same time!

Gonarezhou Wild Dog killed in a snare

Hi Folks,

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.

mabalauta wild dog female movements to july 2011Strops 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.

carcass showing wire around spine

snare attached to tree

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.

The Spectacular Gonarezhou National Park

Having just spent 10 days in Gonarezhou National Park, I feel it would be criminal to only report on our efforts to find wild dogs and lions.  Gonarezhou is a spectacular park – here are some photos of the park itself

Elephants at the base of the famous Chilojo Cliffs

eles at Chilojo cliffs

Chilojo cliffs plus elese

eles drinking in front of the cliffs

The Runde River and its floodplain habitat

Runde river



and hippos….


It’s well worth a visit if any of you find yourself in this part of the world!