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.