A pack of African wild dogs have been released into a KwaZulu-Natal game reserve in an attempt to promote conservation efforts.
The Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HiP) in KwaZulu-Natal released a new pack of African wild dogs!
CONSERVING SOUTH AFRICA’S MOST ENDANGERED CARNIVORE
The pack is composed of four three-year-old males who were originally brought into the reserve from Tswalu Kalahari Reserve at the end of 2020, and two two-year-old females born in HiP.
It is claimed that African wild dogs are Southern Africa’s most endangered carnivore with an estimated 5 000 to 6 000 individuals left in the wild, of which 650 individuals are found in South Africa.
“Due to the highly fragmented conservation landscape across South Africa, 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”, explains Wildlife ACT’s wild dog programme manager, Mike Staegemann.
Through proactive measures, HiP have been able to reduce potential conflict through the early capture and relocation of dispersal groups, in so doing improving local perceptions about Wild Dogs and associated Human-Wildlife Coexistence.
THE NEW PACK OF AFRICAN WILD DOGS
The male group lost their pack’s only female last year during the denning season and attempted to raise their puppies on their own.
However, when the puppies were around five months old, the natural drive of the males to find mates for the next breeding season caused them to start moving large distances and resting in more risky areas, which ultimately resulted in the death of the two puppies.
With growing fears of the males leaving the confines of the park as they broadened their search for females, HiP’s Management, alongside Wildlife ACT and the Endangered Wildlife Trust, worked quickly to capture the males in order to bond them with the two females which were already being housed in the Hluhluwe Boma.
The females were found after they were tragically left to fend for themselves, at less than a year old, after losing both their parents to lions. They survived and made their way south into the iMfolozi section of the park, covering large distances in their natural drive to find males and form their own pack. After repeatedly breaking out, there was an urgent need to intervene to mitigate potential conflict.
BONDING THE PACK
Initially, the males and females lived in two adjacent compartments of a predator holding facility, commonly referred to as a boma. 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 was 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 as much 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 then more accepting of them in their space.
Once the dogs were woken up, they were monitored closely to ensure success. The dogs then spent another few weeks in the boma being monitored daily to ensure the individuals had formed a cohesive and tightly bonded pack before they were released into the park.
MONITORING WITH WILDLIFE ACT
Before their release, all six pack members were fitted with tracking collars to enable daily monitoring of their movements.
“Now that they have been released from the boma, we are hopeful that this pack will thrive and that the new genetic line created will continue to contribute to the HiP wild dog population,” says Dave Druce, Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park ecologist, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.
By: Erene Roux