Sometimes I feel a little too pragmatic to be sensational. And I don’t mean the Australians crossing the try-line in the Tri-nations sensational (who would want to encourage that anyway?). I mean that I was flicking around on the internet to see what’s happening in the world news, getting the latest gossip on Wild Dogs and conservation of course; and was struck at how fleeting so much of the news is. Even news that is acute and dramatic like you’ve toppled a president, or arrived in Davos to work out how to squeeze your sweaty drop of oil from the world’s economy, generally doesn’t last long in the headlines. It appears that chronic problems like extensive flooding and a bit of turmoil in the natural order of the planet are a bit too dramatic for the world to really want to be reminded of on a daily basis. OK I stand to be corrected, there is some pretty wild news out there which I’m sure will persist. I did just see that “Lee-Ann opens up about the Caprice scandal” and that Victoria Beckham is having another baby (I know. Great hey! It might be ready for show-and-tell just in time for the royal wedding!). If you know where I saw those headlines, then shame on you for reading those sites.
But in amongst that mix, and admittedly you have to search a little more specifically than “celebrity baby news”, the release of the Tembe Elephant Park (TEP) Wild Dogs made international headlines for a day (and is now on YouTube). It really is big news; and for good reasons. Reintroductions of wild dogs are less frequent than introductions to new Beckham babies (I can’t even begin to explain how I know that). The concept was fairly straight forward. 1) Find reserves prepared to reintroduce Africa’s second rarest carnivore; 2) if a reserve is keen and committed, decide if it can support at least a pack of afore mentioned second rarest carnivore on the continent; 3) engage all stakeholders to explain the potential reintroduction process; 4) understand and resolve concerns of all stakeholders; 5) prepare contingency plans for management and potential escape of members of the pack from the park 6) begin to source an appropriate pack for reintroduction; 7) defend the concept…….82) defend the concept; 83) secure absolutely final authorization for reintroduction release; 84) release a pack of South Africa’s rarest carnivore into the 300km² TEP; 85) WildlifeACT team monitors the pack daily; 86) continued liaison with neighbouring communities and the Tembe Tribal Authority to ensure collaborative management of South Africa’s rarest carnivore.
Twenty months after step one; the release-day finally arrived! With much excitement a large group of people gathered at the Tembe Elephant Lodge. The journalists armed with note pads, television cameras, microphones and cameras with huge lenses, mingled with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife management, conservation NGO’s and representatives from the community.
The hungry dogs stared longingly at the Nyala carcass on “the outside” of the boma. However, with a crowd of spectators gawking, and the gates finally being opened to the rest of the reserve, the dogs lost their nerve and retreated. Courage built up slowly and eventually one of the pups took the lead. Just over an hour after opening the gates, the dogs overcame their suspicions, dashed over the threshold and settled down to feed on what is hopefully their last catered meal.
To date the WildlifeACT monitoring team has reported the pack has successfully hunted, all pack members have survived and importantly, they’ve managed to avoid any dire confrontations with Lions!
You, the reader, are our eyes and ears through the region. If any readers observe Wild Dogs outside of protected areas, please note the location of the sighting, whether the animal is wearing a tracking collar and identify, or ideally, photograph any characteristic markings. Please then notify Brendan Whittington-Jones on 072 992 9483