It’s Monday 19th November 2007 and the dog days …


It’s Monday 19th November 2007 and the dog days …

Wild Dog Pups This week we’re going to join the African Wild Dog Conservation Team (AWDC) during their research on this rare carnivore (the second most endangered with only 3000-5000 left in the wild). The South Luangwa National Park is lucky enough to have a healthy population of the African Wild Dog, with two main packs whose home ranges overlap at the main game area of the park – the Luwi pack who currently have 4 month old puppies, and the Kapamba pack. The Kapamba pack have had dispersal groups leave the natal pack over the previous wet season, and the two dogs with the radio telemetry collars were included in those dispersal groups. Usually when trying to locate the African Wild Dogs, AWDC researchers have a range of where they may be located provided by these collars, however now the main pack is now collarless the researchers have to use their intuitiveness, wit & wisdom. 

The wild dog team has just been joined by Amanda Ash, who is researching her PhD – Parasites of African Wild Dogs (ground breaking research as there has been a limited amount of work before now). An imperative part of Amanda’s research is collecting faecal samples (it’s amazing the amount of information that you can get from a sample of poo – AWDC is has already been using poo samples for DNA analysis).

Wild Dogs  on RoadWild Dogs

Wild dogs using the road Anyway … let’s join the researchers in their pursuit of the African Wild Dogs:

“Locating and following packs of African Wild Dogs is no easy feat. These dogs are fast and elusive, and while they often use established roads as thoroughfares, they can just as easily duck into dense ticket to chase impala or rest in the shade.” says Claire, AWDC ecologist.

“After days of fruitless searching so our PhD student, Amanda, could collect some fresh poo samples while we collected our usual data, we were following a group of soaring vultures in the hope they would lead us to dogs or, at the very least, a dog kill. However when the birds dispersed, we thought our luck for a dog sighting had run out. Stopping briefly to change the tune selection on our iPod and prepare for the long drive home, I said to Amanda “Just have a look around, for dogs, you know, just in case”.

Wild DogsLounging Around

Taking a break Ten seconds later,  “Dogs!” Amanda exclaimed excitedly. Much to the disbelief of Amanda, a pack of 7 African Wild Dogs (known to us as the Kapamba pack) were trotting past the car, in a half-attempt at catching a stunned Puku. After hours and hours of trying to locate an uncollared pack, we had succeeded, and spent two full days collecting poo and other data from the pack. They spent the heat of the day in a dry river bed, snoozing under a giant sausage tree while we watched on from a nearby bridge and they moved over 20 km north throughout the two days we spent tracking them.”

… Thanks Claire! I hear that they have managed to fill plenty of plastic bags with the all important samples! The Wild Dog team hope to collar the pack before the start of next season … although they have to wait for the correct alignment of stars  – vets, collars, and of course the dogs!

Cheers

Fiona

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