Wild-Eye Conservation – The African Wild Dog
The focus of this blog is around one of the most intense and die hard hunters that grace the plains in Southern Africa, the African Wild Dog. Using their stamina they are able to chase down and outlast their prey on the hunt and when pure exhaustion overcomes the target, they move in to finish them off.
Madikwe is currently one of the best places in South Africa to experience these animals in a natural arena and due to the great conservation efforts, the population is thriving and in good health. One of the ’wish’ list items for the conservationists was to be able to monitor the two packs of dogs that are currently active in the reserve. The planning for the first day was to locate the smaller pack and complete the collaring of the male adult in the pack. Reports placed them in the southwestern corner of the reserve where they had killed a female kudu. Pack consists of 3 adults and 6 pups (originally 7 but one pup was killed by a hyaena clan)
We located the pack after a few hours in a heavy thicket and as it was still early afternoon we moved off to enjoy some refreshments while letting other lodge guests enjoy the sighting. As dusk fell, the reserve conservationist closed the sighting and we set up to dart the dog that was to be collared. The pack had moved into a open area with the pups feeding on the carcass and interacting with each other while the adults had moved off slightly with our vehicles in between the two groups, a perfect moment to dart without putting undue stress on the pups. At the right moment, the dart was delivered.
We waited for about 10 minutes for the drug to take effect and then moved in to get the dog to an open area to work on. The excitement was intense as we carried the dog out and under the professional instruction of Carlien, fitted the collar and took and samples and this all in under 10 minutes.
For some reason, the pack hung around only a few meters from us while we carried out the fitment and did not bolt. I slowly moved along the ground to get the ultimate low angle shots. To make it even more special, the sunset exploded in colour when we finished and stepped back to let the drug wear off and the dog rejoin the pack. What an awesome feeling and experience.
The large pack, which consists of 14 adults and 12 pups were not seen for the entire weekend of the project and we did not think we were going to get to collar this pack. As if scripted, a few hours before we had to return to the real world, the pack was found in the eastern sector, a long drive from our position. The atmosphere changed from serious to excited as we all agreed to try our best to get there and complete the second part of our mission. We arrived to find the dogs spread out over a small area with the pups congregated on a small sand mound.
The target animal was identified from photos and spot patterns just a short distance away. We waited in anticipation as the dart went in and the animal moved off without creating to much confusion in the pack. As before, the dog went down quietly and lay in the shade…. Carlien confirmed the dog was sedated and we made our way closer. As we all alighted from the safari vehicle, the rest of the pack all bolted and moved off a considerable distance from our position.
The team all jumped in, moved the dog to a open area. This made the collaring a quick and painless effort again ! The awesome team of conservationists working well together.
We placed the dog in the shade on the mound where the pups had been lying, to recover from the drug. As our time had run out, we had to leave the scene and the dog under the watchful eye of Carlien. It was a great feeling to make a difference and finish the project.
On our way back to the lodge, we met up with the rest of the pack along the runway and it was great to see the whole group moving together in the open.
We made our way back to the lodge, collected our bags and then went to the lodge’s airstrip to await our ‘taxi’ back to civilization. This was a great mode of transport indeed and thanks to Laurence from Fly88 for providing this.
A moment that changed the way I see the world of conservation through photography…………..
Interesting Facts :
Drug used for darting – Zoletil @ R750 per 5g (mixed with sterile water)
Amount used for dogs – 60mg – 80 mg each
Cost of each GSM collar – R25000.00
Reason for collaring:
- Endangered species so its vitally important
- Monitor impact on prey species
- Identify home range of various packs
- Locate den sites and numbers in breading months
Distance traveled – 363,52 km 556 – Small Pack 18h00 09122012
Distance traveled – 251,19 km 555 – Large Pack 18h00 09122012
(Readings taken every 4 hours)
A great initiative by true lovers of the wildlife in our country…………
Peace n Light - Andrew Aveley
Aka Da Badger