Tag Archives: rabies

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

Rabies vaccination campaigns – reducing the risk of rabies spreading into wildlife from domestic dogs

We work with the District Veterinary Authorities to help to try to keep the incidence of rabies in the domestic dog population down, in order to try to minimize the threat of the disease spreading in to the wild dog and other wildlife populations.  Fortunately, the Chiredzi District vet with whom we work closely is a very good man and his staff team are excellent and dedicated to their job.  But nonetheless, shortages of various things often result in the job being done less effectively than it could be, and this is where we step in to help.  We assist the district veterinary department with fuel, rations and vaccines as required, to make sure that as many dogs as possible are vaccinated during each campaign (which are combined with the foot and mouth vaccination days for cattle).

Such a campaign was carried out over the past couple of weeks with the last two days being focussed on the domestic dogs living within the Save Valley Conservancy (owned by the farmers who invaded the conservancy in 2000).  Obviously these dogs provide the greatest threat to wild dogs because of their close proximity to the wildlife, and indeed cases of rabies in this population were reported only last week.

Rueben helped with awareness raising prior to the vaccination days and we provided 1000 dog vaccines, 20 vaccines for humans (for the veterinary technicians), fuel (200 liters of petrol) and rations for the field staff.

The turn out (of people bringing their dogs to the dip tanks) was much better than usual and once I have the official figures from the vet department I will let you know how many dogs were vaccinated.

Here are some scenes from the day – taken by Rueben who went along to help…

Back soon,




Second rabies vaccination campaign

Hi folks,

The District Veterinary Office from Chiredzi District recently carried out another rabies vaccination campaign in and around the southern half of the Save Valley Conservancy, and further south.  We were able to help them out by providing fuel for their staff to get to the vaccination sites.  The turn out of dogs was good, and in total 2009 dogs were vaccinated inside and in areas immediately bordering the conservancy.

vaccination scene

This is about half the number of dogs on the total census, so we still have a way to go, but nonetheless a 50% turnout is a great effort.

dog being vaccinated

We still need to work on getting vaccination campaigns underway around the northern half of the SVC, which falls under a different District Veterinary Office.  We also plan to utilise these campaigns for education and feedback and general community liaison opportunities in future.

vaccination time

vaccination scene2

Every dog vaccinated against rabies reduces the risk of this terrible and highly infections disease getting into the endangered African wild dog population, so we will continue our efforts to increase coverage and turnout of the campaigns.  A great start so far for 2011 though.

Report on Rabies Vaccination Campaign

Hi folks,

In October, we carried out the first of our rabies vaccination campaigns, and it was a great success.  We worked in collaboration with AWARE Trust and the district veterinary department to vaccinate domestic dogs in and around the south of the Savé Valley Conservancy against rabies and other infectious diseases.

Pup being vaccinated for rabies by the vet

Pup being vaccinated for rabies by the vet - Photo by AWARE Trust

We provided fuel for the awareness campaign as well as 750 rabies vaccines, 250 ‘7 in 1’ vaccines (including canine distemper and canine parvo-virus) and various consumables (needles, syringes etc), and had an excellent turn out to the vaccination sites.  Together with the veterinary department vaccines, several thousand dogs were vaccinated against rabies.

One of the vaccination sites - Photo by AWARE Trust

One of the vaccination sites - Photo by AWARE Trust

Dog being dosed for worms - Photo by AWARE Trust

Dog being dosed for worms - Photo by AWARE Trust

So a very big thank you to everyone who donated funds for this project – it is one of the most important aspects of what we do here.  Not only will it considerably reduce the risks of rabies and other diseases spreading into the wild dogs and other wildlife, it also has very significant positive health implications for the domestic dogs.




Rabies Vaccination Campaign – Please help

Hi folks,

Those of you who have been following this blog will know that we recently lost the whole Mavericks pack to rabies.  This is a highly infectious disease, with almost 100% mortality once it gets into the wild dogs.  Unfortunately, there is no cure, and nor is there yet any effective vaccine to prevent the disease in the wild dogs.

However, the disease is largely maintained in the domestic dog population, and spreads from them into the wildlife, and the good news is that there is an effective vaccine for domestic dogs.  This means if we can keep the level of disease under control in the domestic dog population, we should be able to significantly reduce or even prevent outbreaks of the disease in the wild dog population, and other wildlife.

So – from the 17th to 22nd October, we will be carrying out a vaccination campaign in the domestic dogs surrounding the Save Valley Conservancy, in collaboration with AWARE Trust.  We will aim to vaccinate up to 1000 dogs within 15km of the boundary.  But we need more funds to do this… the more money we raise, the more dogs we can vaccinate and the more we can reduce the risk of further packs of wild dogs dying from this horrific disease.

The 5 in 1 vaccine which includes canine distemper and canine parvo-virus – both infectious diseases carried by domestic dogs which can kill wild dogs and other carnivores – is US$3.20 per vaccine.  The rabies jab is $0.80.  Plus we need funds for needles, syringes and diesel.  Thanks to AWARE Trust, veterinary fees will be waived.

Please consider helping us with this important cause by clicking on the DONATE button on the right of this page.  It’s quick, simple, easy and safe, and every little helps.

Thank you,


Loss of the pups

I’m very sad to have to report that both the pups that we rescued from the Mavericks pack died in the last couple of days.  We had started to hope they were going to make it, having remained fit and healthy-looking for so long after the rest of the pack died, but unfortunately they succumbed to rabies in the end.

The pups were extremely well cared for at the Painted Dog Conservation Project’s rehab facility, by their fantastic staff Xmas Mpofu, Mkhalalawa Moyo, and Washington Moyo, but unfortunately once a dog has contracted rabies there is nothing that can be done for them.  I’m sure they will be as sad as us that the pups didn’t make it.

So once again rabies has wiped out an entire breeding pack of these endangered animals, and we continue the battle against it by trying to find a suitable vaccination strategy for the wild dogs themselves, as well as trying to keep the domestic dog population rabies free.

We do have lots of other positive news though, and I’ll leave it to Becky to write the next  post with some cheerier news.


Saving the pups

Hi folks,

As you’ll have seen from the last post, all but two pups of the Mavericks pack recently died of rabies.  We had been feeding the pack for a few days after all the adults except the alpha female had died, but then the alpha female started to show the same signs as the other adults and we knew the time had come to try and capture and save the last two pups.

The last two pups

The last two pups

With the help of wildlife filmmaker Kim Wolhuter (currently making a film on wild dogs in neighboring Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve), we managed to successfully dig the two pups out of their den and get them safely into a transport crate.  This in itself was quite a mission… the den was in a large anthill with a lot of sand to be moved and several tunnels inside, any of which the pups could be down.

Digging out the den

Digging out the den

Rosemary looking down one of the den holes

Rosemary looking down one of the den holes

Five hours of hard digging later we eventually found them and managed to get them into a mesh trap we had made in order to avoid handling them due to the possibility of rabies.

Getting the pups into their transport crate!

Getting the pups into their transport crate!

After the rabies diagnosis had come through, we had contacted the Painted Dog Conservation Project up in Hwange who have a clinic and rehabilitation facility specifically to cater for all situations pertinent to Painted dog conservation in Zimbabwe.  They also have the option of quarantining the pups until we can be sure they are not infectious with the rabies virus, and there was no doubt this would be the best place for the pups.  PDC agreed to take them and so once they were safely loaded in their transport crate, we set off for the 8 hour drive up to Hwange.

We arrived at the Painted Dog Conservation HQ just before midnight, but despite the lateness of the hour, we were greeted with extreme professionalism and efficiency, and the pups were soon offloaded into their new temporary home.  We went back to check on them early the following morning and found them both looking healthy, and very excited by the presence of other adult dogs nearby, and especially one female who seemed to immediately assume the role of foster mum – albeit through a double layer of wire mesh to avoid transmission of infection!

So we have left them in the care of PDC, and are keeping fingers and toes crossed that they have not been infected with rabies and will pull through.  If they do, they will be cared for at PDC until they are old enough to be released, at which stage they will be teamed up with some other dogs ready for release.  They will then be put through a pre-release program where they learn to bond as a pack and hunt properly, after which they will be released again in to the wild.

I will keep you informed of their progress. In the meantime, if anyone would like to contribute to the cost of their care, please donate through this site and write a comment saying what the donation is for and I will ensure PDC get the funds.  I will post a list of specific urgent needs shortly.



Hi folks,

The cause of death of the wild dogs from the Mavericks pack has been confirmed as rabies.  Whilst this is not as directly associated with people as poisoning would have been, by far the most likely scenario is that the wild dogs would have caught the disease from a domestic dog in the surrounding community.

The alpha female – the last adult alive – died last Wednesday and three of the pups also disappeared, presumed dead.  We managed to rescue two of the pups though, and I’ll write a separate post about that just now.

Unfortunately rabies is a very infectious disease and there is a good possibility that it will spread into other wildlife and other packs of wild dogs, which will be a real tragedy.  Sadly there is very little we can do to prevent this, aside from working with vets to vaccinate the domestic dogs to try and contain an outbreak, so at this stage we will have to wait and see what happens and if it’s possible to save any more of the pups, we will try to do so.


Head-count of the wild dogs

Hi folks,

I’m now back in the conservancy after a couple of weeks in the UK with my family.  I was supposed to be back on Saturday, but was delayed in Harare because none of the luggage arrived due to all the snow-related chaos at Heathrow airport.  I eventually drove down to the conservancy yesterday (still without any luggage), to check up on the dogs.

Misheck has been here for the last week or so (Rueben is still on his annual leave), and has been checking up on the dogs.  His reports of pack sizes are encouraging – most of the dogs seem to be doing okay still, and more importantly, there does not seem to be any sign of rabies in any of the packs he has seen. This is still very much a concern though.

However, because the scouts are not in a vehicle (they use motorbikes or mountain-bikes) it’s sometimes hard for them to get really close to the dogs, so I will be going out every day to check up on all the different packs, do a proper head count and check for new snare injuries, signs of rabies etc.  January is also a good time to do a very thorough population census, so we’ll be making every effort to find and properly count all the packs.  I’ll let you know what we find.

It’s not always easy to count the dogs, having said that, even when you are very close……….!

An interlinked web of wild dogs!

A large pack of African wild dogs waking up suddenly!

Also – January/February is the time when all the new wild dog pups (now 6 months +) get named, so I’ll post some photos soon, and if anyone has any good names, do let me know!  These two for example – two of the Bedford larger litter – need names…

Wild dog pups needing naming

Back soon,


2010 Plans for Zimbabwe Wild Dogs

Happy New Year to all our readers and supporters.  I would like to start this post by thanking all those who have supported us during 2009.  Your donations have really helped to get us through some sticky financial patches and have made a very real difference to the conservation of the wild dogs.  We couldn’t have done what we have without you.

I also want to welcome those relatively new to this blog; thank you for your interest and I hope you continue to enjoy the site over 2010.

We have very exciting plans for 2010 – ambitious and challenging, but with your support and the continued dedication of the team in Zimbabwe we believe we can meet our goals.  We plan to focus on three main branches of conservation this year; environmental education, vaccination campaigns in domestic dogs to prevent the spread of rabies and canine distemper to the wild dogs, and increased investment in anti-poaching.


We aim to expand our current environmental education efforts signifcantly this year, with more schools being included in our program, teacher training workshops planned and the hiring of a local environmental education officer.  We believe environmental education is crucial to any long term conservation initiatives and that well designed, long-term and sustainable education programs are extremely important.

A primary school in Zimbabwe’s south-east lowveld

Vaccination Campaigns

Together with vets from the Aware Trust, we plan to carry out vaccination campaigns in the domestic dogs surrounding key wildlife areas in the south-east lowveld of Zimbabwe where we work.  Not only will this considerably reduce the threat to the wildlife from diseases such as rabies and canine distemper, it also has significant health benefits for the domestic dog and human populations.  We also plan to vaccinate as many wild dogs as possible against rabies over the forthcoming year (thanks again to those who donated funds to help buy the vaccines).

African wild dog immobilised for snare removal and rabies vaccination


Snaring is one of the major causes of death for wild dogs in Zimbabwe.  In 2009, over 80% of recorded wild dog mortality was due to snaring.  Many other dogs did not immediately die from the snares, but carried them around their necks or legs, suffering from horrific injuries.  And it is by no means just wild dogs; animals of all species are killed in a terrible way by these indiscriminate snares, in unsustainable numbers.  We plan to help support and expand current anti-poaching efforts, and specifically to focus on keeping wild dog home ranges and den site areas free from snares.  This is the sort of thing we are trying to prevent…

African wild dog puppy with a wound from a snare wire around his neck

We will also be working more in Gonarezhou National Park next year, with the aim of trying to understand why the wild dog population (and the lion population) is so low there.

I hope you will stick with us during 2010 and I will do my best to keep you updated with our progress in these and other areas.

With best wishes from all of us at the Zimbabwe Wild Dog Project for a peaceful and happy 2010.