Field Update: Painted Dogs

painted dogs, pdc
Peter Blinston collaring the alpha dogs courtesy PDC


DSWF funding has been helping to protect one of Africa’s most endangered carnivores since 1995 – read the latest update from the field…

Life-Saving Collars:

For some months the team has been concerned about the shift in the Nyamandlovu pack’s territory, which saw them spending more than 50 per cent of their time outside the relative safety of Hwange National Park (HNP). They have tried everything to encourage the dogs back into the park, including deploying a bio boundary of scent from other painted dogs which aims to create the impression that the territory is already occupied. While they had some success with this, it has not been totally effective and the Nyamandlovu pack continues to leave the park again and again.

“To protect them we have been deploying our DSWF supported anti-poaching units into those areas to keep them as snare-free as possible,” says Executive Director of DSWF funded Painted Dog Conservation (PDC) Peter Blinston. “Knowing we had to do more, I fitted protective collars to the alpha male, Browny and alpha female, Socks. Fortunately, we were just in time.”

The pack had not been seen for over a week when news arrived that one of the collared dogs had a wound on its neck.

“Anxious to locate the pack and complete a head count, which is easier said than done with 12+ dogs, we were relieved to discover that the pack was still 16 strong. All four collared dogs were present, plus the other three adults and nine remaining pups. But, the alpha female Socks has a wound on her neck,” says Peter.

Thankfully it was not serious and it did not require treatment. Her collar had been twisted at a strange angle and was damaged; a clear sign that she had been caught in a snare and the collar that had only just been fitted had saved her life.

The Value of our Rehabilitation Facility:

Just a few days later tragedy hit the Nyamandlovu pack when Thembile, Socks three-year-old daughter, broke her front right leg.

“It was an awful break just below her “elbow” and it was agonizing to watch her limp along – we could only imagine the pain she was in,” explains Peter.

The team successfully darted her and the vet performed the necessary amputation. Thembile is now recovering at the Rehabilitation Facility now and will be returned to her pack at an opportune moment. With the support of her family she will hopefully be able to lead a full life back in the wild.

Recently, the team also released Thembile’s older sister Fran. They had hoped that some dispersing males would pass by or at least appear in the area, but this didn’t happen so they made the difficult decision to release her on her own. After fitting her with a protective collar the team let her go but she has remained close by, clearly indicating that she considers it a safe haven.

“We continue to feed her and hope that she will eventually venture further away to look for a new pack,” says Peter.

Anti-Poaching Never Stops:

The DSWF supported anti-poaching units (APUs) have already made more than 160 patrols in the first three months of the year recovering more than 500 snares. But, more help is always needed. So the team recently orchestrated a joint operation including local Mabale Volunteers, the newly formed APU from our neighbours at Ivory Lodge, the Forestry Commission Protection Unit, and Zimbabwe Republic Police. As a result of this collaboration, 76 scouts were deployed over a series of six days into the forests bordering Hwange National Park. Twenty four snares were located.

“This is a thankfully low number consistent with the time of year and the fact that we have experienced a very wet rainy season. The heavy rainfall meant that the bush had grown very thick, there is plenty of water enabling the animals to disperse and, as a result, even the most hard-core poachers are coming up short,” says Peter.

Even so, a large-scale operation such as this sends a powerful message to poachers via the “bush telegraph” that the team is geared up and ready to combat the poaching tide that seems so relentless.

The other encouraging news is that other stakeholders are show signs of taking up some of the anti-poaching strain that PDC has been enduring almost single-handedly for more than 15 years. The newly-established Conservation and Wildlife Fund is gaining momentum and neighbours at Ivory Lodge, Elephant Eye, and the Gwayi Conservancy are establishing APUs as well. This is exactly the kind of action that is needed to protect the remaining wildlife populations that have been so depleted in recent years: an estimated £16 million worth of animals having been poached in the surrounding areas. “With the right level of protection in place we know the wildlife populations will recover,” says Peter.

Your superb support, as ever, is what really makes the difference and we can never thank you enough.

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This article was first published in the spring 2017 edition of Wildlife Matters – DSWF’s supporter magazine