Recruitment, whether it is to bolster the numbers of an organization, cult or population can be a tricky process. If it doesn’t rely on some fairly dull bureaucracy, it often requires some manipulation and then on basic instincts. The Russian Army, for example, holds a beauty contest among its female soldiers in an attempt to lure in more male recruits. Cargo cults in remote societies of the Pacific Ocean were swelled by people believing that with some ingenuity and persistence their respective deities would reward them with goods from the skies. Having seen airdrops of military equipment during World War 2 they engaged in ritualistic practices of mimicking parade ground drills, wore headphones carved from wood while sitting in makeshift control towers, and built straw airplanes in the hope that more gifts would fall out the sky.
Augmenting Wild Dog populations actually seems a little simpler now given these contexts. At the moment in South Africa Wild Dogs appear to have two primary options for pack creation, the natural one they have evolved and fine tuned over millions of years, or that unfortunate one we have had to adopt as a result of fragmented habitats and isolated populations. Wild dog packs are usually formed when same-sex dispersing groups (usually siblings) leave their natal pack and join with dispersing, unrelated, groups of the opposite sex. Males tend to delay dispersal longer, disperse in larger groups, and further, than females. This may be as a result of a male-biased adult sex ratio in Wild Dog packs which allows for larger dispersing male units and greater survival over longer distances than for dispersing females.
The Wild Dog metapopulation in South Africa is essentially a series of isolated reserves (and therefore isolated Wild Dog subpopulations) which are collectively managed as one population. This, at times, requires transporting animals nationally to simulate movements of animals likely to disperse (and which wouldn’t be able to find other packs due to the distances between populations), substantial logistical support using vehicles (or as we have been so fortunate with, voluntary aircraft transport provided by the Bateleurs organisation and their generous pilots), pheromones and some good fortune. As mentioned in the previous article, a recent pack split in Hlambanyathi Private Game Reserve near Mkhuze resulted in two female Wild Dogs being available for a move to Khamab Kalahari Reserve (KKR) in the North West Province. A recent report from KKR has informed us that following several weeks of the females being held in a boma, two free ranging males known to be on the 94 000ha property arrived at the scene, were lured into the boma and following a few days separation (in an adjoining compartment) were allowed to join their potential mates. The lack of aggression, the simulated mating and the collective feeding of this “pack” of four is still in its early stages; but is an especially positive piece of news given the many months of planning by so many individuals.
The project to expand the current range, and facilitate proactive management of Wild Dogs in the diverse landscape of northern KwaZulu-Natal is carried out through a partnership between the Endangered Wildlife Trusts’ Carnivore Conservation Programme, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Wildlife ACT, Wildlands Conservation Trust and the KZN Wild Dog Management Group; supported by Jaguar Land Rover South Africa and Land Rover Centurion.
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