Re­prieve for wild dogs fac­ing ex­tinc­tion

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - ILANIT CHERNICK ilanit.chernick@inl.co.za @Lanc_02

THE FIGHT for the sur­vival of the African wild dog has been bol­stered through the help of game farm­ers, the En­dan­gered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and con­cerned com­mu­nity mem­bers in Lim­popo.

With only 5 000 African wild dogs left in Africa and fewer than 500 in South Africa, the EWT suc­cess­fully re­lo­cated three en­dan­gered fe­male African wild dogs from an area of po­ten­tially high car­ni­vore con­flict in Lim­popo to safety in the Water­berg re­gion.

“With the in­crease in the price of game over the past decade, con­flict be­tween car­ni­vores and farm­ers over the killing of game is a re­al­ity in the re­gion,” ex­plained Derek van der Merwe, con­flict mit­i­ga­tion field of­fi­cer of the EWT’s Car­ni­vore Con­ser­va­tion Pro­gramme

“There have been many cases where en­dan­gered species such as wild dogs and chee­tahs have been per­se­cuted through the use of poi­sons, gin traps and or­gan­ised hunts, with some even de­lib­er­ately run over on our roads.

“But it is very en­cour­ag­ing that some landown­ers’ at­ti­tudes are chang­ing for the ben­e­fit of con­serv­ing en­dan­gered species and that they are aware of the leg­is­la­tion that pro­tects these an­i­mals.”

Van der Merwe made it clear that this change in at­ti­tude be­came ap­par­ent when the EWT re­ceived a re­port that three wild dogs were spot­ted on a game farm be­tween Thabaz­imbi and Dwaal­boom in Lim­popo last month.

“Farmer Piet du Toit did not want the wild dogs on his prop­erty, but he wanted to en­sure that they could be re­lo­cated to a safe en­vi­ron­ment.

“He con­tacted the lo­cal vet, Dr Louis Gre­eff, who was will­ing to dart the wild dogs. He in turn con­tacted the EWT for as­sis­tance to have the car­ni­vores moved to a place of safety,” he said.

The EWT, which keeps a data­base of all wild dog sight­ings out­side the coun­try’s game re­serves, had noted that a male wild dog had been re­ported at Lin­dani near Melkriv­ier a few days ear­lier.

“The de­ci­sion was taken to move the three fe­males to Lin­dani in the hope that the soli­tary male would join up with them, giv­ing them all a greater chance of sur­vival.

“The own­ers of Lin­dani, Peg and Sam van Coller, were de­lighted to have the dogs re­leased on their prop­erty, and the ne­c­es­sary per­mits were ob­tained from the Lim­popo De­part­ment of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment, En­vi­ron­ment and Tourism (Ledet),” he said.

But Van der Merwe and the EWT team had their hands full try­ing to dart the three fe­males.

Their ini­tial at­tempts to dart the dogs were un­suc­cess­ful and the next sight­ing was just be­fore sun­set, re­sult­ing in the need for them to come up with a new plan, which in­volved dart­ing the an­i­mals from a he­li­copter the next day.

Van der Merwe, ac­com­pa­nied by vet­eri­nar­ian Dr Suné Fer­reira and farm man­agers An­dries Hills and Wim An­holds, helped to cap­ture the three wild dogs be­fore they were safely trans­ported to Lin­dani, where they were re­leased on May 29 by the EWT.

“The wild dogs were spot­ted on Lin­dani the fol­low­ing morn­ing, and again ear­lier this month,” Van der Merwe said.

“They are do­ing well and are seem­ing un­per­turbed by the move,” he added.

With fewer than 500 wild dogs left in South Africa, the safe re­lo­ca­tion of the three fe­males was a sig­nif­i­cant step and gives hope, es­pe­cially to the wild dog pop­u­la­tion in the Water­berg re­gion.

“The small free-roam­ing pop­u­la­tion of wild dogs in the Water­berg is es­ti­mated to be­tween only five and 15 in num­ber, and is ge­net­i­cally valu­able.

“This makes this group of wild dogs crit­i­cally im­por­tant for a species which is on the verge of ex­tinc­tion, and makes the in­tro­duc­tion of these three fe­males even more ex­cit­ing,” Van der Merwe em­pha­sised.

The EWT thanked com­mu­nity mem­bers and all the other part­ners for their in­volve­ment in their ef­forts to pro­tect wild dogs and of­fer them a chance to flourish.

Team ef­fort to re­lo­cate three fe­males to safety

PIC­TURE: NEIL ALDRIDGE / EWT

BET­TER CHANCE OF SUR­VIVAL: One of three fe­male African wild dogs re­leased at Lin­dani in the Water­berg, where a soli­tary male awaited them to form a new pack.

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