Just after 12pm today, the last of the 14 Wild Dogs were released into Tembe Elephant Park in KZN. This introduction of Wild Dogs into the park allows for valuable range expansion and is of enormous significance to the conservation of the species.
At 10:10 am this morning, Tuesday 11 January 2011, The Endangered Wildlife Trust; KZN Wildlife, Wildlands Conservation Trust, the Tembe Tribal Authority and WildlifeACT set out to release these 14 wild dogs into the Park. The dogs hadn’t eaten since Saturday so the idea was to lure the out of the boma with Nyala carcass tied to a long piece of rope. They tied another long rope to the gates of the boma which they used to open them. This was the idea, however, because the dogs had not left the boma in over a year, they were far too scared to venture outside the gates despite the enticing carcass in front of them. At one point, three of the dogs made a break for it and ran straight over the carcass and out of the gate and starting pacing up and down the fence of the Boma trying to coax the other 11 dogs out.
Eventually, an hour or so later, KZN wildlife staff quietly made their way inside the boma and stood along the back fence putting pressure on the dogs to move closer and closer towards the gate, until eventually they ran free! – Kelly Marnewick, Tembe
For a short video of the dogs visit EWT’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=92994179642&v=app_2392950137&ref=ts#!/group.php?gid=92994179
It was an emotional occasion as the release follows extensive community liaison and preparation work over the past year. The release of thie Wild Dog pack into the Tembe Elephant Park is vital to the survival of South Africa’s managed WIld Dog metapopulation. It’s incredible to finally see them stepping into the wild and we are all holding thumbs that they will do well.
In December 2009 four male Wild Dogs from the then De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Trust were relocated to Tembe Elephant Park and accomodated in a boma with the intention of later relocating them into the reserve. In February 2010 three femails from Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park joined them. The pack produced seven pups while communities in the area were prepared for their release.
Wild Dogs are South Africa’s rarest carnivore and were extirpated from KZN in the 1930s. There are less than 400 Wild Dogs remaining in South Africa, of which approximately 130 are in the Kruger National Park and 160 in northern KZN.
Wild Dogs are particularly challenging to conserve because they range widely and occur at low densities. As such even the largest protected areas are able to support only small populations. The conservation and management of small, fragmented populations has therefore become an unavoidable necessity.
The formal Wild Dog metapopulation programme was initiated in 1998 to expand the species’ range throughout South Africa. Tembe will be the 12th reserve to receive WIld Dogs as part of the programme.
African Wild Dogs once occured throughout sub-Saharan Africa but now occupy only a fraction of that range. There are currently about 5 500 – 6000 Wild Dogs left in the wild globally. Only a handful of countries contain viable Wild Dog populations.
WildlifeAct will be monitoring the Tembe pack, while the EWT will remain involved in its role as coordinator of the KZN Wild Dog Management Group. The Group aims to promote the national Wild Dog Range Management Project and establish safe corridors between reserves for natural dispersal of the species.