Tag Archives: save valley conservancy

Wild dog Collared in Save Valley Conservancy

Hi there,

We have been rather quiet of late, things are slowly calming down as the denning season draws to close. However, wild dogs rarely sit still for too long thus neither can we! A few weeks ago we collared one of our female wild dogs, always an exhilarating experience and an opportunity to become even more familiar with the animals.


Cain, our scout, radioed and said he had the Batanai pack visual. Now if you remember, Shreddy who recently died of a snare was part of the Batanai pack. Around the same time we found Shreddy dead the pack had moved from their den and thereafter our scouts had a hard time finding them. Shreddy was one of two collared males in the pack. It had been almost three weeks since we had received any report of this pack, so naturally we were all very excited when we heard that Cain had found the pack resting under a large baobab. Rosemary decided this would be a good opportunity to try and collar another individual in this pack. Rosemary darts off the back of the scouts’ bikes. The dogs are relaxed to the sound of the scouts’ bikes enabling Rosemary to get nice and close for efficient darting.


The dog we collared is called CC (named so after two marks on her back right leg that look like two C’s next to eachother). We fitted the collar and took a small piece of ear and blood samples for genetics. We stayed with her until she was fully recovered and Cain found her the next day back with the pack and doing well! Collars are not only a way for us to locate and keep track of our packs, but GPS and Satelite collars enable us to gather information on home ranges and better understand how the packs in Save Valley Conservancy utilise the available space. Further, data from wild dog GPS collars can be used to locate snare lines (after noticing snare wounds on the wild dogs).

Thats all for now, but it is an interesting time in the conservancy, we tentatively watch how the pups fair after the denning season and how pack dynamics may change. More soon!



Lions plague denning African wild dogs

Wild dogs in the Savé Valley Conservancy face great challenges from their greatest competitors, lions and hyenas. The denning season is when the effects on the wild dog population are most visible.

This pack of four dogs (split from the Batanai pack of 30 at the beginning of the denning season) has been disturbed by lions at their den from the time they started denning. On the 1st of June when we went to set up camera traps at the den, we found a dead young male lion, with most of its body in the hole where the pups and the alpha female were!!

dead lion at den_1 June 2013


This lion was suspected to be a lone individual, separated from the pride and could have been looking for easy prey. We managed to pull out the lion carcass with the help from the guys from Sango Ranch.

Clearing off dead lion

Dead lion after being pulled out


To our relief, the alpha female wild dog jumped out of the hole and ran off as we drove away.  We have yet to see the fate of pups, but mum being alive and well is a good sign….  We are just praying that the lion wasn’t sick and hasn’t transmitted any disease to the wild dogs.  We’ll be keeping a very close eye on them.

More on lions at this den site coming soon!

Looking forward to the denning season

Hi folks,

Over the last month we’ve been witnessing mating in the various wild dog packs in the Save Valley Conservancy.  We’re really looking forward to the denning season, when we hope we’ll get lots more pups.

Here’s what we have to look forward to :).  Photos are courtesy of Trent Binford-Walsh







We should be starting to notice pregnancy in the alpha females any day now, and I’ll be sure to update you as soon as we do!

Why don’t you consider a trip to Chishakwe Ranch where the AWCF field team is based to see this for yourself?

Back soon,


Follow us on Facebook

Hi Folk,

I’ll keep this blog up to date as much as I can, but for short regular updates and load of great pictures and stories, please visit and ‘like’ our facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/AfricanWildlifeConservationFund



African wild dogs show off their wonderful playful nature

Hi folks,

I just wanted to share with you a few photos I took recently whilst watching the Batanai Pack in the Save Valley Conservancy.  The Batanai Pack is still 30 dogs, having had 12 pups last year and 100% pup survival to date!


The 12 pups are now about 9 months old and are wonderfully charismatic little fellows; bold and beautiful.  And full of energy!!!

They found me very interesting:



And then once they had tired of checking me out, they did what wild dog pups do…. played!!


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Just a wonderful, wonderful sight to watch.  I was smiling for the rest of the day!  It’s always great to get a chance to get out of the office and spend time with the dogs. and sightings like this remind us just why we are working so hard to conserve this magnificent species.

How can anyone seriously still consider these vermin?


A story of survival against the odds

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!




New pack of endangered African wild dogs forms in Zimbabwe’s Save Valley Conservancy

Exciting news!!

We have confirmed the formation of a new pack of wild dogs!!

Admittedly it’s a very small pack – only two dogs at the moment – but every pack has to start somewhere, and we are thrilled by the discovery.

We became aware of the new pack last week, after Rueben managed to get photos of the dogs.  On looking at the photos, I knew immediately that I recognized both dogs but it took me a few minutes to confirm which ones they were.

These are the pictures Rueben took:

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Even though the only photos of the female were sitting down in water, I was able to identify her as Mushroom, a female that was born in 2008 and has since been a member of three different packs, the last being the Pita Pack which she founded with two of her sisters.  She’s clearly decided it’s now her turn to breed!!

The male is from the Nyarushanga Pack, where he was the beta male in 2011.

We’ve called the pack Nzungu, which means ‘nut’ in Shona (don’t ask!) and look forward to following their progress as the denning season approaches.

Here’s the pack’s new (blissfully simple!) identikit:

Nzungu Pack

We hope to see many more new packs forming over the next month or two.  I’ll keep you posted,


Fitting a new tracking collar to an endangered African wild dog

Hi folks,

Obviously an important part of the conservation-research component of our holistic African wild dog conservation project is being able to locate the packs!  With home ranges up to 3,500 sq km, thick vegetation and tracks (footprints) obscured for much of the rainy season, the use of tracking collars is a vital tool.

Most of the packs in one of our focal study areas, the Save Valley Conservancy, are collared, but we aim to try and get at least two collars on each pack in case of death or disappearance of the collared dog, failure of the collar, or in case of dispersal of some of the pack.

Yesterday we had an opportunity to fit a second collar onto one of our study packs, known as the Splinters.  The dogs were very relaxed as the vehicle approached, and I darted an adult female with no trouble.

She jumped up as the dart hit, then moved off only a short distance before sitting down with two pack mates in the shade.  Slowly she succumbed to the effects of the drugs and drifted off to sleep, with the other dogs right there with her:


The pack stayed around:


And one of the youngsters even came over to investigate the dart:


The immobilization and collaring procedure went very well.  A pulse-oximeter recorded blood oxygen and heart rate which remained at good levels throughout.   Regular temperature checking and cooling with water, together with an ice pack (frozen bottle of water!) between the legs ensured she never became too hot.


We fitted the collar, took samples and measured physical characteristics and teeth.


It was a good experience for our attachment student Nobesuthu, who learned about all aspects of the collaring procedure.  Scouts Rueben and Misheck were there to lend a hand as well.


We administered the reversal, and she recovered well.



Just after we took this photo, the rest of the pack came back (they had been lying close by throughout) and they moved off together after an endearing display of re-bonding.

Back soon,


A lovely evening with a beautiful pack of African wild dogs

Hi folks,

I was lucky enough to have a chance to spend time with a pack of 21 African wild dogs the other day.  The Mapura pack is one of my favourite packs; they are all such beautiful dogs individually, and when they are all together it’s really a stunning sight.


We caught them the other day in that lovely African evening light and I just wanted to post a few photos to illustrate (just in case you were in any doubt!) the beauty of these endangered animals.

When we first caught up with the pack they were back-lit, with the light catching the grass:


Then we moved around them and had about 15 minutes of the lovely light:




As the sun started to go down, the dogs got a bit more active:




It was nice to see our collared female (Forax) looking so good.  She was the mother of the beta litter of pups in this pack, all eight of whom have survived to six months   Good job! Here she is with one of her pups.


And here are two male pups which are also from Forax’s litter – such striking markings on them both!


Eventually we left the pack to it and headed home.  What a lovely evening!  And a great reminder of why we are working so hard to conserve these animals for all future generations.



Wild dog antics

Hi folks,

A couple of days ago I went out with Rueben and attachment student Nobesuthu to look for the Mapura Pack.  We found them resting in a riverbed, and enjoyed an hour or so of just watching them do what dogs do;

Relaxing with a friend:


Pestering a friend who would really rather just be asleep:


Stretching after a long, tough day of sleeping:

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And having the all important ear-cleaning session:

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The whole pack was there and it was lovely to just spend time with them.  They are very entertaining animals!

Back soon,