Wild Dog Diaries – 57

It’s the beginning of 2012 and despite the sparkling wine fuelled optimism which surges through many humans for a few hours as the year ticks to an end, there is clearly a tough year ahead. Economies are looking rather frail and there are even startling rumours that Mariah Carey is to bring out a deluxe edition Christmas album in 2012; sobering indeed.

Without optimism though it will be difficult to emulate the feats of the North Korean government which has, according to Reuters news agency (relaying the undoubted truth as issued by North Korean state media), been able to make some quite remarkable progress in the field of  interspecies cooperative consciousness. This sort of mutual understanding, to the benefit of all involved, is one which we have been striving to get Wild Dogs to understand. It really would make our lives easier if they’d just listen to us. It was reported that following the recent death of the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, the period was marked by plunging temperatures, mourning bears and then flocks of magpies which appeared from nowhere and hovered over a statue of former President Kim Il Sung, “clattering as if they were telling him the sad news”. A family of bears, which usually hibernated through the fierce Korean winter, had been seen lamenting Kim Jong-il’s death. “The bears, believed to be a mother and cubs, were staying on the road, crying woefully” it said.

So for all those Wild Dogs out there that may be susceptible to persuasion of the North Korean kind we have a few respectful requests. Whilst those of you in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HiP) have cooperated diligently to resolve your social disorder in the face of pack traumas like the losses of alpha pairs and the vehicle collision on that unforgiving R618 corridor road, it would be greatly appreciated if dispersers could merge into established packs in time for the annual breeding cycle. Those of you single-sex dispersal groups content with bachelor and bachelorette lifestyles, please remain within the designated boundary fence. Resources are limited and each excursion beyond the protected area gives doubters more ammunition to accuse you of ill deeds; even without evidence.

Mkhuze Game Reserve dogs you have faced hardship in negotiating safe passage from snares and kept the monitoring and management staff on tenterhooks as they have obsessed about your well-being. We’d be wildly grateful if you defy the detractors and push on through 2012 with a bountiful crop of pups.

Thanda pack; as you were. Let us not have any re-enactments of January 2011’s exploratory expedition. Stable. Not too many. Not too few. Thank you. Hlambanyathi pack, we know you had a rough year, a poached alpha female, pack fission, pack members sliced up in snares outside the park, extensive boma time, females flown to the Kalahari and even disease. However you have two recently acquired females and we won’t ask for too much, just that you pull through to 2013.

Tembe pack you too have your detractors and if ever there was a microscope on you it will be in 2012. We need to organise you some lion savvy males from HiP and this is on the cards, permission permitting of course.  As for you males hanging around up north, eyeing out Mozambique, there are better food and mating options for you in HiP. Hold the line, your transfer request is in that long pipeline.

The project to expand the current range, and facilitate proactive management of Wild Dogs in northern KwaZulu-Natal is carried out through a partnership between the Endangered Wildlife Trusts, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Wildlife ACT, Wildlands Conservation Trust and the KZN Wild Dog Advisory Group; supported by Jaguar Land Rover South Africa and Land Rover Centurion.

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

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About whittingtonjones

I’m Brendan Whittington-Jones, a Capetonian and a ginger – what a pearler of a combination! I manage the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s KZN Wild Dog Project in northern Zululand. The initial aim of the project was to answer research questions around what influenced where wild dogs moved when they dispersed out of protected areas, and what the attitudes of rural communities surrounding these protect areas are towards wild dogs. Over the years, the project has evolved to play a stronger management role in wild dog conservation in the province. I coordinate the KZN Wild Dog Management Group, where we focus on range expansion for the species, collective management of the species in the province and mitigation of potential wild dog conflict with landowners. One of the bonuses of my job is the opportunities I have to explore new reintroduction locations like Tembe, or track after dogs through parts of the region I’ve never seen before – although I would prefer it if the dogs did this in shorter stints rather than month-long treks.
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