Wild Dog Diaries – 64

South Africa has dramatically battled England, and emerged victorious, to rise to the number one test cricket ranked nation. Now if I’m entirely honest this isn’t really relevant to Wild Dogs but it is my little soap box to stand up and mention it on.  The tension as the five days of the final test match see-sawed in momentum, as South Africa drove on and England counter-attacked, was epic. One listener of the BBC’s text commentary, Chris in Poole Hospital maternity unit,even wrote via text “This text commentary and Steve Finn’s wickets are distracting me from my wife crushing my right hand.”

As stirring as it has all been though, the Wild Dogs have tried, and succeeded, in providing their own tension. For fear of over-dramatizing the past month of Wild Dog exploits I’ll just say it’s been a busy time for all with sprinklings of scattered disorder. The newly formed isiPhiva pack, the release of which from boma confinement was mentioned in last month’s article, promptly split up into its original groupings of a pair of females from Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park and the pair of males from Tembe Elephant Park. While the males are now in the Maphumulo area of Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, the females’ whereabouts are unknown.  So although this long debated move of social bonding with “new” males was intended to settle the dispersing females down and facilitate breeding with some genetically quite important individuals from Tembe Elephant Park, the Wild Dogs have decided such an arranged marriage was not to their liking.

The Ume pack, which was previously reported to have lost its alpha female during the denning season, had sent envoys to the north of the reserve to scout for new tail and territory and a peaceful way forward. Well that’s not quite true, it actually seems to be more Soviet Union than the United Nation’s Kofi Annan; more annexation of interested potential breakaway females than a diplomatic divide of social and reproductive resources between packs. Reports from the park’s monitors have led us to understand at this stage that there may be splinters from the Crossroads pack in the north of the reserve which have been seen socialising with the eleven-strong Ume faction. Whether this is a temporary or a permanent social shift remains to be seen. “Isidingo” take note, this is social politics!

While these affairs have been playing themselves out, two males from Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park’s Shiyane pack have been recorded in Mkhuze Game Reserve! The Tembe Elephant Park pack has finally denned, Zimanga Game Reserve has reported eleven pups which are being raised by two adult females following the unexpected death of the alpha male, and Thanda Game Reserve has reported its pack has been seen with nine pups. Nationally there have been some positive developments with Pilanesberg reporting five pups, Khamab Kalahari reporting eight pups and Madikwe reporting 23 pups from their three packs.

We can now also announce that we’ve launched the Wild Dog Advisory Group of South Africa (WAG-SA) website at www.wagsa.org.za; an online management resource developed by the Endangered Wildlife Trust in consultation with WAG-SA participants. WAG-SA is a collaborative advisory group made up of key stakeholders in the fight to keep South Africa’s Endangered Wild Dogs alive, including reserve managers, landowners, researchers, veterinarians, non-governmental organisations and provincial representatives. The online resource aims to guide national African Wild Dog management, to inform relevant stakeholders and to educate the general public. It provides detailed information on the current status and ranges of African Wild Dogs in South Africa, all aspects of management of the species, as well as links to current and past research projects and literature – all of which will aid conservation decision making. I encourage you to go take a look.

The initiatives to expand the current range, and facilitate proactive management of Wild Dogs in northern KwaZulu-Natal is carried out through collaboration between the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Wildlife ACT, Wildlands Conservation Trust and the participants within the KZN Wild Dog Advisory Group. The EWT’s national Wild Dog metapopulation project is 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 notify Brendan Whittington-Jones on 072 992 9483

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