The Batanai pack is one of our best known packs. They currently number 30 dogs, after a successful denning season with 100% survival of their June litter of 12 pups.
I spent a great few hours with them the other day, and just wanted to share a few photos with you. The pups are at that very curious and playful stage, and it was a fantastic opportunity to just sit and observe them.
Some of the pups found me very interesting:
While the adults were generally happy just chilling out in the last rays of the sun:
Always alert and playful, the pups never allowed for a dull moment:
They are such characters!
Sorry I’ve been quiet for a while. I’ve been at a wild dog symposium in Namibia and only just back. On the way back I stayed the night in Bulawayo and had the great privilege to attend a rehearsal of a fantastic performance being put on at the Bulawayo Music Festival on Thursday. This is an initiative called Song of the Carnivores – and is the culmination of months of hard work by a fantastic team of people.
The Rangewide Program for cheetah and wild dog in southern Africa, the Bulawayo Academy of Music and the British Council have teamed up to help produce an amazing musical extravanganza. Involving 500 children from Bulawayo, the Song of the Carnivores is a half an hour piece of music, composed and organised by composer Richard Sisson and sung by local school kids, which captures the characters of all the five large carnivore species in Zimbabwe.
At the rehearsal I went to, seeing the song, with it’s beautiful lyrics, sung by hundreds of students actually brought tears to my eyes. The lyrics and composition are spectacular and the whole program has had incredible education benefits to all students involved.
So if anyone is in Bulawayo on Thursday, you absolutely must go and see this performance. And even if you aren’t in Bulawayo – make a plan to get there! It will be the highlight of your year! It’s at the Large City Hall in Bulawayo at 5:00pm on Thursday 24th and costs only $2. It’s a must-see and all part of the Zimbabwean carnivore conservation effort.
More on it after the event.
A couple of days ago Rueben reported seeing a pack of wild dogs with two injured pack members. One had a snare around his neck and one – sadly – had completely lost a leg. I went out immediately to take a look and see if there was anything I could do. Unfortunately the one who had lost a leg is beyond my help. It seems he was caught in a snare and chewed his own leg off to get out…. Yes, you did read that correctly. My immediate reaction of disbelief when I saw it was swiftly followed by anger at the immense cruelty of snaring. This only increased when I managed to get a look at the dog with the snare around his neck…
I tried to dart him, but could not get a shot at him that day, and in any case it was getting late, so the following day, Rueben found the pack again early (thank goodness for the collar) and we spent the best part of the day trying to get close enough to get a dart in. Unfortunately when dogs have been injured, they often become, understandably, very wary of humans, and they kept a long way out of range. We tried motorbike, foot and vehicle and eventually I managed to get a dart in him when they stopped at a water point to drink.
The wound was even more terrible than it had seemed. The poor dog’s neck was almost half cut off….
I called for some help and by some miracle had sufficient phone signal to get a message through to a vet to ask for advice. We removed the snare, cleaned up the wound and did what we could.
Luckily, the whole procedure went extremely well. The dog slept soundly throughout and only started to come around once we had finished everything. (The brown in the photo below is the betadine solution with which we cleaned the wound).
After an injection of the reversal drug, he made an extremely good recovery and soon joined his pack again. I hope he will make it – he’s only a 10 month old pup, and deserves more of a chance than that! Fortunately wild dogs are extremely resilient and I have seen dogs with similar wounds recover fine, so his chances are not too bad. I will let you know how he does.
We work with the District Veterinary Authorities to help to try to keep the incidence of rabies in the domestic dog population down, in order to try to minimize the threat of the disease spreading in to the wild dog and other wildlife populations. Fortunately, the Chiredzi District vet with whom we work closely is a very good man and his staff team are excellent and dedicated to their job. But nonetheless, shortages of various things often result in the job being done less effectively than it could be, and this is where we step in to help. We assist the district veterinary department with fuel, rations and vaccines as required, to make sure that as many dogs as possible are vaccinated during each campaign (which are combined with the foot and mouth vaccination days for cattle).
Such a campaign was carried out over the past couple of weeks with the last two days being focussed on the domestic dogs living within the Save Valley Conservancy (owned by the farmers who invaded the conservancy in 2000). Obviously these dogs provide the greatest threat to wild dogs because of their close proximity to the wildlife, and indeed cases of rabies in this population were reported only last week.
Rueben helped with awareness raising prior to the vaccination days and we provided 1000 dog vaccines, 20 vaccines for humans (for the veterinary technicians), fuel (200 liters of petrol) and rations for the field staff.
The turn out (of people bringing their dogs to the dip tanks) was much better than usual and once I have the official figures from the vet department I will let you know how many dogs were vaccinated.
Here are some scenes from the day – taken by Rueben who went along to help…
I got sent these pictures the other day, by a fellow wild dog fan. I just wanted to share them with you – they are fantastic photos that really capture the spirit of these awesome animals.
Thanks to Bud Jackson for these great photos!
As I mentioned in the last post, I recently went to Bulawayo to give a lecture, but in addition to that several talks had been arranged for me to give at different schools – both primary and secondary – around Bulawayo. At the risk of being boring, the topic was, of course, wild dogs!
The secondary schools got a relatively informative presentation, and I was impressed by the interest and questions afterwards, which showed a good understanding of the topic and a keen interest.
The primary schools were a little more daunting – what on earth do you do with 600+ children from 4 years old upwards?!
Well, after talking to them briefly about what wild dogs were, we soon got them up and about, with 1 being an impala and then ‘packs’ of 1, 3 or 10 ‘wild dogs’ trying to catch the impala, to teach them about the benefits of cooperative hunting. We also played other games with groups of boys and girls making packs, and then having to split up into single sex groups and run around until we shouted stop, at which point they had to quickly try to find a group of the other sex…. the mechanism (sort of!) by which wild dogs disperse and form new packs. It was all a lot of fun and the kids were wildly enthusiastic.
Altogether we spoke to about 11 different schools, and I hope that those students will not forget what a special animal the wild dog is. I must add my thanks to Netty Purchase and Phumizile Sibanda for organizing it all, and to Alliance Francaise for funding the program.
I just got back from a few days in Bulawayo where I had a hectic schedule talking to schools and giving a lecture. Netty Purchase, the range-wide coordinator for cheetah and wild dog in southern Africa, together with the Alliance Francaise have organized an amazing collection of events about carnivores, under the umbrella of ‘The Song of the Carnivores’. Last week it was wild dog week, and I was invited to give the wild dog lecture as part of a series on “dispelling the myths” of large carnivores.
My topic was “Dispelling the myths that wild dogs are cruel hunters that decimate prey populations”. It was an evening lecture with a great turnout and very positive feedback, and I hope it’s done a little bit to help people see through traditional prejudices and realize what incredible animals wild dogs are. Even people who were known not to be too keen on wild dogs were heard muttering “it almost makes you love them”!!
Excitingly, this initiative has gained so much support and enthusiasm, it may be adopted in several other countries in southern Africa, which is just great. The whole project includes music, poetry, art and these lecture series, involving hundreds of schools and individuals in Zimbabwe.
Here I am just after the lecture with Netty (far right) and Phumizile Sibanda (sec0nd from right) who will be giving the leopard talk next month. Such a great initiative and it is a privilge to be part of it.
I was on my way to the south of the conservancy the other day, when I came across the Batanai Pack. This is one of our largest packs at the moment – 18 dogs in total – and it was great to see them. They had clearly been hunting and were on their way for a drink and a cool-off in a nearby waterhole.
They enjoyed a rest in the cool mud, the pups playing about a bit, and then moved off to flop down in the shade a little way off. It’s always nice to see them having a mud bath, but it doesn’t make for particularly useful ID photos when they are all covered in mud…..!
There is no real story to go with these photos, but I think they are quite fun, so I wanted to share them. This is the Mapura pack on an impala kill, taken by Misheck in mid December.
The Mapura pack is based on Chishakwe Ranch which has a lovely lodge for visitors, so consider a visit and we can take you to see the dogs!
Rueben and I had an interesting afternoon yesterday. We went off to find the Batanai pack so that I could download the GPS collar and check the dogs for snares etc. There had been a lot of rain in the area however, and getting to the dogs was an adventure…
We eventually got to them (suffice to say the 4 wheel drive was sufficiently tested), and found them resting in some thick shade by a water pan.
We’d taken the doors off the URI once we were close to the dogs, to make it easier to see and photograph them but even so it was hard to see them in their thicket.
So I had to resort to crawling up to them on my stomach… Fortunately it was not too thorny, just a little wet and muddy!
The dogs closest to me were the pups – now 7 months old. They didn’t seem to mind me being there, and a few even came up to have a look. It’s an interesting experience being looked down on by a wild dog!
Eventually the adults got wind of me, and they moved off a short distance. Following them on foot gave us unusually good sightings (they normally run away when you approach on foot) and we were able to confirm that all 18 are still there (11 adults and 7 pups) and that there are no snares or serious injuries in the pack.