Home News News World Painted Dog Day: Fighting a Pack of Challenges

World Painted Dog Day: Fighting a Pack of Challenges

On World Painted Dog Day we highlight some of biggest challenges facing the depleting painted dog population and how you can support these beautiful animals.  

The dog days of summer aren’t quite over, as today, August 26, marks World Painted Dog Day. 

This phrase is especially apt, given we usually associate it with those sticky, sweltering summer times when it’s so hot, even dogs lose their enthusiasm for zoomies and stick to the shade. And right now, painted dogs are feeling the heat – as climate change, habitat fragmentation, and human encroachment deplete both their home range and their populations. 

Nicholas Dyer

Treacherous Terrain

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) provides support and funding to dedicated anti-poaching units that operate in and around Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. Their recent work has been focused on safeguarding a pack that has moved into a treacherous region, rife with illegal wildlife crime. Yet, determinedly, their efforts resulted in over 3,500 snares being removed from the area over the last year.

Nicholas Dyer

Unfortunately, during this time, a mature female named Thinnet was found dead in a snare and a pup went missing from the main pack.

The anti-poaching teams set up a field camp and began to carry out reconnaissance ahead of the pack, as well as close monitoring patrols. These actions saved the lives of each of the adult members of the pack, who were snared on multiple occasions, but were able to be rescued and released successfully – often within minutes of being trapped.

Den-izens of their Domain

We also have an even happier update direct from the field. Washington, a tracker within the team in the Sinamatella region, where our monitored Velakude pack is currently located, has reported that they are showing clear signs of denning. As they’ve adopted the same area as last year, it looks like you really can’t teach old dogs new tricks – but in this case, it’s probably down to them having learnt from experience! The rocky terrain makes it difficult to dig, and excavating a new site each year would tax both their time and their energy. So, the Velakude pack are working smarter, not harder and have set up home in their old digs – quite literally.

Den sites are incredibly important in keeping the pups safe. As a pack, painted dogs are formidable predators and a force to be reckoned with. But, in a landscape where they are not the biggest on the block – with everything from lions to hyenas looking not just for easy pickings but to also rid themselves of any competition, it’s best they stay out of sight. Dens also offer pack members refuge from the heat of the sun and the elements at a time when they’re most vulnerable.

Bringing them Back from the Brink

The pups haven’t emerged yet, but we are waiting with bated breath to bring you pictures when we can, so keep an eye on our socials. Their tiny paws will carry the hopes for the expansion of the pack and a securer future for painted dogs in Zimbabwe as a whole.

Although the rangers within the anti-poaching teams we support and fund must be hands on when it comes to rescuing painted dogs from snares, they operate a much more standoff approach when keeping an eye on the pups. Vital equipment such as camera traps are used to minimise disturbance yet keep a close eye on their welfare and progress. 

It is only with this kind of dedication and on-the-ground presence that we can ensure painted dogs have a future in the wild. Just a century ago, there were over 500,000 painted dogs in Africa. Today, that number is closer to 6,600, representing a 98.7% crash in their numbers – and with only 21% of the population (1,400) being viable, mature individuals.

Nicholas Dyer

Making a Difference

The work we do has a direct, positive impact in the regions where our supported projects and programmes operate. The Hwange and Sinamatella areas now boast 95 adult dogs, split across 31 packs, and with ten breeding units recorded – the busy parents of a grand total of 44 pups! 

We couldn’t support and fund this vital and incredible work without your help. Perhaps you’d like to adopt Swift, our painted dog ambassador and soon dad-to-be (we hope!) from just £3 per month. Or maybe you’d like to donate a sum of your choice directly to our work here

However you choose to support us on this World Painted Dog Day, we’d like to thank you for making a difference to the Velakude pack, their pups, and the safer future we’ll be able to secure for them.

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Andrew White
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

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