Tag Archives: wild dog denning season

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,

Rosemary

 

Wild dog pups!!

Hi folks,

Here at last are some photos of some of the pups from this years denning season.  These were all taken by camera traps at the Mambira den.  This is the pack of four dogs that live in the very south of the Save Valley Conservancy.  Looks like they have seven pups in total.  Too cute!

The alpha female is the GPS collared wild dog known as Claw.  It’s her second litter – last year only two pups emerged from the den and neither survived beyond 6 months, so we are hoping this year she will do better.  Having seven to begin with is a good start!

I’ll post more news on these and the other packs’ litters soon. I’m actually in South Africa at the moment for various meetings etc, but will be back in the field in a week or so, and will catch up with the scouts then, and let you know how the rest of them are doing.

In the meantime, don’t forget to visit www.savethewilddogwithawcf.com to buy a copy of the fantastic new African wild dog book by Neil Aldridge; we receive a donation of $15 per book sold, so you’ll be helping the project as well!

Back soon,

Rosemary

 

More pregnant wild dogs

We’ve now confirmed that the alpha female of the Bedford Splinter Group is now pregnant as well.  I was a bit worried about that pack as last time we saw them the females were on their own with no sign of the males.  But it seems as if they have reunited and Pooch – the pack’s alpha female – is probably in her 5th or 6th week of pregnancy.  Last year, this was the packed that denned very late and unfortunately they did not manage to rear a single one of their litter to over 4 months of age.  Let’s hope they do better this yesr!

Pooch - the alpha female of Bedford Splinter Pack

Pooch - the alpha female of Bedford Splinter Pack

Sadly, none of the females in the Batanai Pack are looking pregnant yet – I saw them all very well a couple of days ago and whilst they are all looking healthy, there is no evidence of any of them being pregnant.  This is the pack for which I saw the dogs mating about six weeks ago (24th March), but it looks like that wasn’t successful.

Some of the Batanai Pack resting in the shade

Some of the Batanai Pack resting in the shade

Excitingly, Rueben saw the Crocodile Pack again today and confirmed that one of the females in that pack is pregnant too.  The Nyarushanga Pack still has not denned down, but we are expecting them to do so any day now.  Exciting times 🙂

First look at Star pack pups

Hi guys,

Despite choosing to den right at the top of a hill, the Star pack have not escaped from our research! A couple of days ago I made the long and gruelling trip up to visit the den and managed to spot the dogs briefly as they ran down the other side. The pups are still quite small so are spending most of the time deep in the den, but the camera traps show at least ten pups.

First sighting of ten pups

First sighting of ten pups

Next time I plan to approach the den from a different angle and will hopefully stay unnoticed!

Becky

Harriet steals Cindy’s den!

Hi all,

Something very interesting has been happening in the Maera pack.

The alpha female (Harriet)’s den has been a perfect location for spending a few hours watching her nine pups and the interactions between them. We had also managed to identify every adult in the pack except for the other female, Cindy (Harriet’s sister).  Luckily though, she is collared and we were getting a clear signal not too far away. With a bit of investigating we managed to find her about 300 metres away, and it seemed she too had started denning!! It is not unheard of for two females in a pack to produce pups, but it’s likely the alpha female will intervene, either killing the beta female’s pups or raising them as her own. Normally a beta female will give birth around six weeks after the alpha has (so around now!). We put a camera trap up at her den hoping to identify when she gives birth.

Cindy in her den

Cindy in her den

Two days ago I went to check up on the beta female, Cindy. Unfortunately she wasn’t by her den, but I managed to retrieve the photos from the camera trap. Surprisingly the photos show the various stages of Harriet, the alpha female, moving her litter of nine pups to Cindy’s den! Often the alpha female will move her pups to another den site when the pups get too big, or bacteria builds up at the den. It seems Harriet took the easy option and simply took over Cindy’s den!!

Harriet clearing out Cindy's den

Harriet clearing out Cindy's den

Harriet carrying a pup to Cindy's den

Harriet carrying a pup to Cindy's den

Harriet with six of her pups at Cindy's den

Harriet with six of her pups at Cindy's den

I’ve since been back to Cindy’s den (Harriet’s now!!) and counted nine pups, so they have all been moved safely. I also managed to get a closer look at Cindy and am pretty certain she is still pregnant, so it’ll be interesting to see where she decides to give birth, and what happens to her pups. I’ll keep you posted!

Becky

Lions at the Bedford pack den again… only 3 pups left

Hi guys,

It may be no surprise to tell you that the Bedford pack have moved dens again!!  This is their fourth den this year. The huge increase in the lion population seems to have really taken its toll on this pack. We hadn’t had much luck seeing either the adults or the pups at their third den, and unfortunately when we went last time it felt abandoned. When looking at the photos from the camera traps it was clear that they were visited by lions again. Tracks on the ground also confirmed this. Sadly, one of the photos clearly shows a lion with a pup in its mouth.

Lion tracks going into den hole

Lion tracks going into den hole

Lion tracks going into den hole

Lion tracks going into den hole

Lion tracks amongst wild dog tracks

Lion tracks amongst wild dog tracks

Lion with pup in its mouth

Lion with pup in its mouth

Fortunately though, they didn’t move far and since finding their fourth den and putting up camera traps, I can confirm that there are still three healthy pups left. This is a big loss for the pack as they originally had thirteen pups, but fingers crossed these three remaining will make it into adulthood. They are spending a lot of time outside the den, and are extremely energetic and lively!

Three remaining Bedford pups

Three remaining Bedford pups

We also managed to collar one of this pack (the previous collared dogs split to form a new group), and this should make it easier to track the dogs should they move dens again or stop denning altogether.

Fitting Twinspot with a GPS collar

Fitting Twinspot with a GPS collar

The other packs seem to have escaped the lions so far (touch wood!), this pack has just been extremely unfortunate.

Becky

Videos of the first African wild dog puppies

Here are the video links to the footage I took of the wild dog pups when I saw them for the first time a few days ago… Enjoy!

If anyone wants to try to count them and let me know what they get, I’d appreciate it.  It’s quite important to get an accurate number of pups at first emergence, but it’s not always as easy as it sounds!

And remember if you want to support our efforts to conserve these awesome animals, please make a donation through the African Wildlife Conservation Fund website or click on the DONATE button on the right which will take you to the same site.  Thank you.

Pups

Bedford Pack Puppies – First Pictures

I’ve finally seen the pups!  After many hours of sitting at the den, I finally saw the pups for a few minutes late this afternoon.

The are utterly adorable and very comic.

I think there are 13 – there may be more, but several times I’m pretty sure I’ve counted 13; not always easy to count the little chaps as you can see from these photos!

The most awesome alpha female in the country!

The most awesome alpha female in the country!

mum & pups

pile of pups

more pups

even more pups!

regurgitating for pups

I’ll post some video footage of the little fellas soon…

Wild dog den site – the first of the season!

As mentioned briefly in a previous post, yesterday was a very exciting day for us, because we found a wild dog den site!  This is the den for the Bedford pack; although the original Bedford pack has split into many groups, this pack is the one with the original alpha female and therefore remains the Bedford pack (all the other packs will get new names).

Wild dog den site

Wild dog den site

We managed to access the den by vehicle, which allowed us to approach much more closely than if we had to go in by foot, as the dogs are not afraid of the vehicle.  We saw all the dogs nicely.  There are 13 in total; a mixture of adults, yearlings and last years pups.

Some of the Bedford Pack at their den

Some of the Bedford Pack at their den

The alpha female, Pointer, has clearly had her litter already – she has lost her huge stomach and is clearly lactating.  The tiny pups will remain in the den for about the first three weeks of their life, so we should hopefully see them around mid-May. We will be putting camera traps at the den to record the exact date of first emergence of the pups, and I will post photos of them just as soon as they emerge.  They really are utterly adorable, and I can’t wait to see them.  I just hope they manage to steer clear of lions – they’ve denned in an area with quite a large lion population and lions frequently kill entire litters of wild dog pups.  But this is a very experienced alpha female and a reasonable sized pack, so hopefully they should be able to defend the pups should it be necessary.  I’ll keep you posted on their progress.

Sadly we noticed one the yearling females – a beautiful dog named Mushroom – has an injury on her back.  It doesn’t look too bad though, and I suspect she will recover naturally, although we will keep a close eye on her.

Injured wild dog yearling, Mushroom

Injured wild dog yearling, Mushroom

Back soon,

Rosemary