It’s Monday 28th April 2008 and the dogs get leashed


It’s Monday 28th April 2008 and the dogs get leashed

The Wild Dog Week was so popular this year we had to increase the capacity to nine people – involving two guides (Rocky & Masumba) and two African Wild Dog Conservation (AWDC) ecologists – Claire and Egil. In contrast to typical safaris, here guests accompany project ecologists in the field while they are conducting their research, thereby obtaining a first-hand look into wild dog ecology, threats to the species’ existence, and how field research on these animals is performed.

The wild dog guestsWild dog relaxing

All of the guests had been on safari before and were very keen to see the wild dogs. Some had seen them before – Derek saw them on his very first game drive in Botswana, although others hadn’t had such luck. Kari had been on safari over seven years and had not been privileged to catch sight of them. Throughout the week there was much laughter and hilarity – Masumba regaled everyone with his repertoire of animal noise impressions.

The guests accompanied Claire and Egil on game drives and learnt more about the project’s research aims and goals. They demonstrated how the dogs are tracked using radio collars and examined the ID kits on the known packs in the area. None of the main packs had collars on as all collared individuals had left their natal packs, and the main game area, last season.

Demonstrating how the collars work  ... much to Jackson's amusementRelaxing in the shade

On their first drive they caught up with the dogs cavorting along the road. According to one of the guests: “On our first emerald game drive we thought it was wishful thinking to identify some shapes on the road ahead as the dogs, but closer inspection revealed just how lucky we were. This was the first sighting for some of us, and we weren’t quite sure all of us would recover from the excitement. They are truly beautiful animals. We watched their interaction for about half an hour. It is the dogs’ sense of social responsibility and duty to their whole pack which have endeared them to us all.”

Claire and Egil left in the very early hours of the morning to relocate the dogs before they started the day’s activities, but something perhaps disturbed them in the night as they had already moved on. Unfortunately after this first sighting the dogs became a little less cooperative, and stayed hidden until a day after the wild dog guests left (which had been the longest time period they had remained unseen this Emerald Season). This again demonstrates the unpredictability of these animals, accentuating the value of every sighting. You never know when you will next have such an experience.

Just chilling

However there was great excitement yesterday … the stars were all aligned just right with the vet and wild dogs all in place for an attempt to put collars on a new pack. The Wild Dog team was up at 4 in the morning, finding spoor on Lupunga Spur before Claire and Egil caught a glimpse of them hunting on the far side, where they crossed the Mushilashi River and headed into the thickets. The team split up, with one group driving up the Mushilashi (until they were turned back by a breeding herd of elephants) and the other trying to meet them on the other side of the thickets. The dogs had run straight through to Wambilombe where they were spotted by a game drive, who kindly radioed with their location. Both cars raced over to find them relaxing in the shade. They managed to dart two dogs, a male and female. A new drug combo was used, which allows the dogs to recover much quicker. After the darted dogs were reversed they were quickly up and running smoothly, with the rest of the pack expressing such excitement at their return that they initiated the whole greeting ceremony, paying little attention to the shiny new collars.

The team and darted  wild dogCollared dog  up and about

The new collars will help the Wild Dog team determine the new pack dynamics and, with aims to collar two dogs in each pack this year, it should make for a very exciting Wild Dog week next year. These dates are being finalised this week and will be released shortly.

Cheers,

Fiona

Chilling out after an eventful day

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