Cole du Plessis, KZN Regional Co-ordinator, Carnivore Conservation Programmecoled@ewt.org.za
Maremani Nature Reserve, which lies at the northern tip of Limpopo and borders Zimbabwe, has recently become the latest reserve to join the Wild Dog Metapopulation, offering safe space to the most Endangered carnivore in South Africa. The reserve has plentiful game and 40,000 hectares of safe space where the Wild Dogs can thrive in an area made up of tropical savannah.
Although Maremani Nature Reserve has only just received their first pack of Wild Dogs, they had already been supporting a group of four male Wild Dogs that had been threatened with persecution in northern KwaZulu-Natal and had nowhere else to go. Rieker Botha, manager of Maremani Nature Reserve, was kind enough to convert his elephant boma into a Wild Dog boma and offer these four important males refuge.
However, a single group of males is not sustainable and our goal was to form a new pack. This required what all male Wild Dogs are looking for – females. For a new pack to form, we engaged with one of our partner organisations, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZN Wildlife), which donated four females from Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HiP) to assist in starting a new Wild Dog pack.
The four females were darted by a joint team made up of the EWT, EKZN Wildlife and Wildlife ACT. We worked together to fit tracking collars onto the Wild Dogs and take necessary biological samples before loading them into crates and taking them to Mkuze airstrip, where The Bateleurs were ready and waiting to fly them up to Limpopo.
The joint operation first required the males to get ready for their new females. Grant Beverley (EWT), Dr. Shaun Beverley (Limpopo Wildlife Vet) and Dr Zoe Glyphis (Saving the Survivors) had started immobilising the male Wild Dogs in the Maremani boma so that they could bond them with the female Wild Dogs on arrival. The bonding process (physically rubbing the female and males together while still sedated) was effective and the following morning, all the Wild Dogs were together and moving as a new pack in the boma. They will spend the next few weeks in the boma, which will allow the bond between them to grow stronger before being released.
The key to Wild Dog population growth is to expand their range/safe space and introduce founder individuals to catalyse population growth. We extend our thanks to EKZN Wildlife for another Wild Dog donation to the national Wild Dog Metapopulation, and to Rieker Botha and Maremani Nature Reserve for your efforts in Wild Dog conservation.
We also thank WildlifeACT for logistical support in KZN, Saving the Survivors and Limpopo Wildlife Vets for support at Maremani, The Bateleurs for flying the females to Maremani, and donors that made this work possible, namely Richard Bosman, Land Rover Centurion, Painted Wolf Wines, Peter Orsmond, James Williams, Luke Roberts, Anny Pinto, Biance Wernecke and Lee Mitchell.