Tag Archives: Wild Dogs

Wrapping up the year, and what a year it has been!

We have made some significant strides and changes this year, with the end goal of being the best we can be and doing the best we can for African wild dogs and large carnivore conservation in Zimbabwe. We have recently sent out our end of year newsletter which reports on some of our more significant achievements this year. Including, some positive developments in our Education and Outreach Program, welcoming our new attachment student, strong monitoring results for wild dogs in Savé Valley Conservancy and Gonarezhou National Park, and much more.


School children proud of their Lowveld ABC cards!


Rosemary helping children on a school course design a wild dog from natural materials.


Rueben tracking wild dogs in Gonarezhou National Park

To view the full newsletter please visit our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/AfricanWildlifeConservationFund). We hope you enjoy the read, and please feel free to forward as you wish. The more people who know about us and the work we do, the better!

We would also like to take this opportunity to appeal for runners and support for the 2015 Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon Fundraising event. As you may/may not (?) have heard, we have been accepted as one of the few official charities of the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon this year (http://www.twooceansmarathon.org.za/information/run-charity)!

As such we are assembling a team of 50 dedicated athletes who will be running 21 km to raise funds and awareness for AWCF and our pivotal conservation work in the south-east Zimbabwean Lowveld. Our species of focus is the AFRICAN WILD DOG – Africa’s second most endangered carnivore, and a unique and charismatic species heavily threatened by loss of habitat, fragmentation of protected areas, human persecution and accidental wire-snare poaching.


Wild dogs in the Save Valley Conservancy

Through this event, we want to do all we can to promote AWCF as a conservation NGO, bring about awareness of a conservation cause which we are extremely passionate about, and raise some VERY much needed funds for our conservation work and projects! If you would like to run as part of the team, or would like to support the event in anyway please email [email protected]

Thank you for your support, and we hope that you will consider being a part of our conservation work in 2015. If there is any aspect of our work that you feel you would like to contribute to, or be involved in in anyway, please do not hesitate to contact us. The wild dogs will thank you too!

Thanks for your support!

Thanks for your support!

We wish you all the best for the festive season and the New Year, see you in January 2015.

Rosemary, Jess and the AWCF teampaws



Sisters Doing it For Themselves!

Hi all,

We have three packs (Pita, Mapura and Chapungu) denning rather late in the year in the Save Valley Conservancy. Wild dogs normally only breed once a year when they occupy a den for three months during June-August. These are the second denning events for Mapura and Pita Packs for this year. The three new litters could potentially contribute an additional 14 dogs to the conservancy’s population, if survival is good. Since the start of the denning season we have lost 50% of our pups with highest mortality being after the wild dogs have left the den and are more vulnerable to snare poaching and lion predation. Chapungu Pack, consisting of two females, were first sighted in September this year and later identified to be two sisters from the late Maera Pack of the conservancy. They were both pups in 2010 and were last sighted in 2011. We have no idea who the alpha male was, or where he is now, but the two sisters appear to be successfully raising four pups. However, they have their fair share of obstacles. On the recent den cameras the  alpha female has two puncture wounds on her left side, evidence of a potential failed lion attack, and a lioness was sighted moving through the den area a couple of times.


LionFortunately, there are still four pups and the sister of the alpha female seems to be taking good care of the alpha’s injuries and is regularly seen licking the wounds. This will help to keep the wounds clean and clear of infection allowing the injuries time to heal well. We will continue to monitor the progress of the female and the survival of the pups and hope that these two sisters will be able to successfully raise and protect the pups against potential threats. A very difficult task for two wild dogs who rely on the cooperative nature and power of their pack to successfully hunt, feed and protect their young.



More soon!

“I learnt from the best” – AWCF Attachment Student Shares Her Experience

Hi all,

This is truly an inspiring read. Nobesuthu Ngwenya, a student at the National University of Science and Technology, spent a year with AWCF and the Lowveld Wild Dog Project learning all about field-based conservation of large carnivores in south-east Zimbabwe. Below is what she has to say about her experience. It is truly encouraging to read about her time with AWCF, and how she has come to have an enriched understanding of wildlife conservation and an appreciation for natural resources. It was a pleasure having Nobesuthu as part of the AWCF team and we wish her only the very best in all her future endeavours!


Time moves very fast, it’s already been a year and attachment year is over. It’s been a great experience working with AWCF. I have learnt a lot in the project and had the feel of the real working environment.

 I am very grateful to Dr Rosemary Groom for giving me the opportunity to join the project and for all that I know about wildlife in the field today. She also made it possible for me to do my project with AWCF. If it weren’t for her guidance and persistent help, my attachment and project would not have been a success. Special thanks to the AWCF team, the scouts and the community liaison officer, who never got tired of helping me and answering all the questions I had with my first experience in the field.

 Working with AWCF, I learnt a lot about conservation and wildlife management and with no doubt, I will carry the flag of conservation wherever I go and share it, especially in my country, where many people do not understand the need to conserve and protect our wildlife and resources.


 I enjoyed every moment with the lowveld wild dog project all that was there to learn, from data collection, game count, education outreach programs, wild dog tracking, de-snaring and darting, collecting blood and tissue samples, vehicle and motorbike maintenance, workshops, human and wildlife conflicts. I learnt a lot so much that if I were to list it all, the whole web will be filled up.

 To mention a few exciting moments; we had darted a snared wild dog to remove the snare. The procedure went well and I was given the chance to learn how to inject the anti-dote. It was so exciting as it was the first time I ever held an injection.


I also had my first experience of sleeping in the tent whilst at Gonarezhou National Park, tracking for wild dogs. We had wild cats coming close to the tents…this was scary but something worth experiencing… Then finally, the indescribable period of the denning season, the most remarkable wild dog pups, though there were devastating moments when they faced predation by lions and hyenas.

 There were also pressing situations which I learnt a lot from, especially pertaining to human and wildlife conflicts. There were situations were domestic animals from villages around the conservancy were preyed on by wild dogs, and such situations had to be dealt with diplomatically. It was just amazing how little people knew about wildlife in the surrounding villages. They had no knowledge about wild dogs and did not understand their importance in the wild.


 To sum up my attachment period, I must say, a conservationist mind has been created in me, and I am proud to say that, I learnt from the best.


Playing Pups


We just had to share this series of photos with you all. The last two surviving pups from Mapura pack’s alpha litter thoroughly enjoying themselves not far from the den where Ursula is busy nursing a second litter for this year. After the devastating loss of nine pups shortly after the pack stopped denning, a second litter is very welcome and good news. What an absolute pleasure to have the pack denning again practically on our doorstep! We cannot wait to watch how the big and little pups interact and what mischievous antics they get up to.

Mapura pups playing

We hope you enjoy these as much as we do. Have a good week!



Wild Dog Dies from Snare Along the Western Boundary of Save Valley Conservancy

Morning all,

We received some disappointing news yesterday afternoon. Italy, one of collared males from the Crocodile pack was found dead from a snare. We have had no visual of Crocodile or Orongo packs for almost a month now, and for the past few weeks finding these packs has been a priority for our scouts. Post denning the packs return to their normal wide-ranging habits making them incresingly difficult to track, even with telemetry. Yesterday afternoon the scouts radioed and reported they had found Italy, from the Crocodile pack, dead from a snare. Italy had been dead a while, nothing remained of his body except an almost totally decayed head. He was found outside the conservancy in Village 31B. The snare was still attached to the tree indicating that he was unable to break free (his back teeth are still intact indicating he did not attempt to/couldn’t chew through the snare to break free). He must have died a very terrible death attached to the tree and later been scavenged off. It is unbelievable to see what such a beautiful and unique animal has been reduced to purely as a result of careless human behaviour.



The scouts reported the rest of the pack at 9 adults and 6 pups. This means 2 more adults are unaccounted for, and the pack has now lost 6 of their 12 pups since they finished denning. Our scouts are currently out in the field following up on the rest of the pack, checking for other snared individuals or injuries, and taking good ID shots so we can identify the missing individuals. Even with our constant monitoring and dedicated team we sometimes cannot find snared dogs before it is too late. Hopefully with the right support we can continue to strengthen our anti-poaching initiatives and educate local landowners and communities on the critical impact indiscriminate snaring has on wild dog survival in the Save Valley Conservancy and surrounds.

More soon,



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!

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:

Nzungu-22-01-13 (5)

Nzungu-22-01-13 (11)

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,


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:

IMG_8582 - Copy

And having the all important ear-cleaning session:

IMG_8586 - Copy

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

Back soon,