Derek van der Merwe, Limpopo Regional Co-ordinator, Carnivore Conservation Programme
The Waterberg is the last remaining area in South Africa that still has free-roaming Wild Dogs. This means that they were not reintroduced and did not escape from any fenced reserves, but rather, they occur naturally outside of fenced reserves. In other words, these are the only Wild Dogs with no boundaries enforced upon them. With the increase in the price of game animals over the last decade, conflict between carnivores and farmers over the killing of game is a reality in the Waterberg region. There have been some cases where Endangered species such as Wild Dogs have been directly persecuted through the use of poisons, and organised hunts, and some have even been deliberately run over on our roads. In an effort to safeguard this last free-roaming pack, the EWT’s Carnivore Conservation Programme was recently able to collar two of the dogs near Melkrivier in the Waterberg.
A satellite collar as well as a VHF collar was put on two adult males so that we can follow their movements and inform landowners of their whereabouts. This is to ensure total transparency within the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve with the aim of increasing community support and collaboration for the protection of this pack. The pack will be monitored and for the first time an ecotourism model will be put in place to allow tourists to view the Wild Dogs. The innovative aspect of this work is that the funds generated from this model will be paid to landowners who protect the Wild Dogs on their properties. We are confident that this approach will incentivise landowners to value the presence of the Wild Dogs in the region, while simultaneously affording the pack protection. In this way, the Wild Dogs will fund their existence in the region.
The small, free-roaming pack of Wild Dogs in the Waterberg is made up of 11 animals and is genetically distinct from all other populations in South Africa. Therefore, it is a conservation priority to preserve these last free-roaming genes in South Africa. The EWT thanks all community members and landowners involved in our efforts to protect Wild Dogs and offer them a chance to flourish. It is very encouraging that many landowners’ attitudes are changing to the benefit of Endangered species conservation and that they are aware of the legislation that protects these animals.
We would also like to thank the donors to this project that have heard the urgent call for funding of collars, helicopters and emergency response. These include Group Partners, IQ Business, Mark Matheson, Duncan Parker and the Elizabeth Wakeman Henderson Foundation.