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!