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Pack of endangered African wild dogs released in KZN reserve

08 April 2022 - 09:10
Before their release in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, the African wild dogs were fitted with tracking collars to enable daily monitoring of their movements, behavioural dynamics, ecological influences, diseases, snaring incidents and to mitigate human-wildlife conflict.The four three-year-old males in the pack were brought into the reserve from Tswalu Kalahari Reserve at the end of 2020 while the two two-year-old females were born in the park.
Before their release in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, the African wild dogs were fitted with tracking collars to enable daily monitoring of their movements, behavioural dynamics, ecological influences, diseases, snaring incidents and to mitigate human-wildlife conflict.The four three-year-old males in the pack were brought into the reserve from Tswalu Kalahari Reserve at the end of 2020 while the two two-year-old females were born in the park.
Image: Tegan Goldschmidt

A pack of African wild dogs has been released in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

Before their release, the dogs were fitted with tracking collars to enable daily monitoring of their movements, behavioural dynamics, ecological influences, diseases, snaring incidents and to mitigate human-wildlife conflict.

The four three-year-old males in the pack were brought into the reserve from Tswalu Kalahari Reserve at the end of 2020 while the two two-year-old females were born in the park.

African wild dogs are Southern Africa’s most endangered carnivore with about 6,000 left in the wild, of which 650 are in SA.

“Due to the highly fragmented conservation landscape in SA, the instinctive behaviour of young wild dogs to disperse in search of mates can cause individuals to come into direct conflict with adjacent land users as they try to leave in search of new mates,” said Wildlife ACT’s wild dog programme manager Mike Staegemann.

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, through informed decision-making and proactive measures, was able to reduce potential conflict through the early capture and relocation of dispersal groups to ensure wild dogs and associated human-wildlife co-existence.

Once the monitoring team were comfortable with the interactions, a decision was made to dart all the individuals and use the rub bonding method in which every individual is rubbed on one another to get the scent of the non-familiar dogs.

Wildlife ACT,  comprised of a team of experienced conservationists, said initially the males and females lived in two adjacent compartments of a predator holding facility, commonly referred to as a boma, in the Hluhluwe section of the park.

This passive bonding method allowed the dogs to get to know each other through the separating fence. Over time they began to sleep on this central fence and were soon excitedly following one another up and down the fence line.

"Once the monitoring team were comfortable with the interactions, a decision was made to dart all the individuals and use the rub bonding method in which every individual is rubbed on one another to get the scent of the non-familiar dogs. This method uses the dog’s sense of smell to minimise aggression between each other, as the individuals can smell themselves on the unfamiliar dogs and are more accepting of them in their space.

"When the dogs were woken up, they were monitored closely to ensure success. The dogs spent another few weeks in the boma being monitored daily by the Wildlife ACT Hluhluwe team to ensure the individuals had formed a cohesive and tightly-bonded pack before they were released into the park."

The park's ecologist, Dave Druce, was hopeful that the pack would thrive and the new genetic line created will contribute to Hluhluwe-iMfolozi's wild dog population and the metapopulation in Southern Africa in years to come.

The project is a partnership between Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Wildlife ACT, and the Endangered Wildlife Trust.

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