I’ve recently come back from 10 days in Gonarezhou, where I was conducting a large carnivore call-up survey, in collaboration with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and Frankfurt Zoological Society. I’ll tell you all about this in a later post, but during the time we were doing this work – focussed mainly on lions and hyenas – we also made significant progress with our understanding of the wild dog population in this large, remote wilderness area.
We were already aware of the existence of a pack in the very south of the park, and thanks to the exceptional tracking skills of Rueben, and a Parks scout Julius, they managed to locate the den of this pack. This was extremely exciting, and is (to our knowledge) the first time anyone has located a wild dog den inside the park. The den is about 3km off the nearest road, over ridges and through rivers and its find is a real credit to Rueben and Julius. We have put some camera traps at the den, and I will post photos from them once I have been back to change the batteries. In the meantime, we know there are at least 6 adults and 7 pups, although I think the pack is larger than that.
The den site of the Mabalauta Pack
Just as excitingly, we also found evidence of another successfully breeding pack in a totally unexpected area of the park, where we have never seen any evidence of wild dogs before. We saw one wild dog one night (when we were doing the calls for lions), and the next day followed the tracks and came across an area with plenty of old and fresh adult and puppy tracks suggesting a recent den in the area.
Rosemary & Rueben looking at tracks by a water pan we came across
As you can see from the photo below however, the long grass in the area hampered tracking efforts, and we never found the den, but Rueben estimates about 10 adults and 8 pups from the tracks, which is fantastic.
Long grass in the area of the Chitanga Pack den
This was all very encouraging, and suggests Gonarezhou may in fact be an important conservation unit for the wild dogs.