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Wild Dogs Bounce Back!

Mon 05 Oct 2020

Newsflash from our Operations Manager, Duane:

“I cannot begin to tell you how many sleepless nights the wild dogs of Limpopo-Lipadi have given me. I stopped counting a long time ago… but there have been many!

My concerns were mostly based on the fact that we, as custodians to Africa’s most endangered carnivore, are losing the battle—with our dwindling wild dog pack, sterilised alpha male, and extensive pressure from other bigger predators.

It seemed that all was lost, especially when we found that the old alpha male was killed by hyenas at Cabbage Dam in early March, and we only had one female and two subordinate male dogs left.

As a conservator, I am well aware that wild dog packs are known to have huge fluctuations in their populations, and unfortunately, a population that has nose-dived in such a fashion seldom recuperates, and often dwindles before disappearing altogether. It has happened elsewhere, and I feared that this was going to be the end result in our case as well. It seemed very unlikely that our remaining three dogs would be able to survive, let alone procreate. The remaining female dog is old and has mothered several pups. The remaining (subordinate) males seemed unlikely to father pups with her.

However, the old cliché, “nature finds a way” rings true.

We saw the dogs intermittently during the lockdown, and during one such occasion I got the distinct impression that the female in the trio appeared to be pregnant. It was just a glimpse, but it ignited a flicker of hope that maybe, just maybe, some pups were on the way.

Wild dogs have a gestation period of 70 days. The pups stay hidden in a safe and secure den for the first six weeks, before venturing out. Let me tell you, it was a long time to be patient!

In the meantime, we got busy with the elephant translocation, and my worries about the wild dogs were placed on the proverbial back-burner. Once the translocation was completed, I could start worrying again. This was helped along by several inquiries from shareholders as to the state of our wild dog pack. “Just keep in mind that there is a wild dog in our logo”, is a lament that I have heard more than twice in recent months.

I asked our section rangers and APU to keep a lookout for the dogs, and possible den sites, but was sadly disappointed by negative reports on a weekly basis. Nothing!

By the beginning of September, I had given up hope. It seemed like we have finally lost the pack, and any opportunity for rejuvenation. I have already started preparing the necessary documentation to request the DWNP for permits to bring in a new pack to Limpopo-Lipadi. Something much more easily said than done.

Then, out of the blue, good—no, brilliant—news reached my ears! John, our head ranger phoned me on Friday, the 18th of September to notify me that the wild dog den site had been found!

I couldn’t make my way there fast enough! The absolute pleasure of seeing six healthy pups is difficult to express.

The foundation of a new pack has been laid! Wild dogs will prevail on Limpopo-Lipadi!”

Photos: Glen Macdonald