WILDERNESS SAFARIS, Chikwenya Camp, April 2020/ — Wilderness Safaris’ non-profit partner, Wilderness Wildlife Trust, has allocated vital funding required to feed the recently translocated wild dogs in Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools National Park for an additional five months. Due to be released this month, it was observed that the alpha female is now pregnant, so they will remain in their boma at Wilderness Safaris Chikwenya Camp for this extra time. The wild dogs were moved from Hwange National Park in September 2019 to help mitigate the threat of human-wildlife conflict, as well as expand the range of this extraordinary Endangered species.
“Together with Capmount Lodges and Painted Dog Conservation (PDC), we translocated the dogs late last year, with the aim of releasing them into the park this month, once they were acclimatised to the area. However, as the alpha female is now pregnant, the pack needs to stay in the boma for an additional five months or so. Being able to support PDC with the extra USD15 000 required to feed and keep the pack in the boma is a crucial investment from the Trust. With fewer than 7 000 wild dogs left in Africa, it is imperative that we continue to take proactive measures to help secure the future of the species. Ecotourism has been an important contributor to local economies and we want to help keep it that way, even during these unprecedented times”, comments Dr Neil Midlane, Wilderness Safaris Group Sustainability Manager.
In February 2018, this particular pack was initially reported by Mpindo community members to be predating on their goats on the eastern boundary of Hwange National Park. They were then captured by PDC in June, under a directive from Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA), and held in PDC’s rehab centre until December, before being released into Hwange. Upon their release however, the dogs headed straight back to the same community, and thereafter the idea of relocating them to a more remote area in Mana Pools was born.
Unlike Hwange, which is located alongside local villages, Mana Pools was seen as the ideal wilderness location for the pack, to not only greatly reduce human-wildlife conflict issues, but also expand their range and revive the current relatively low wild dog population in Mana. For the people of Mpindo, the wild dogs’ journey to Chikwenya was a welcome relief for their livestock and their livelihoods, and a reminder of how important Wilderness Safaris’ community engagement is in resolving human-wildlife conflict.
After a good few months in the Chikwenya boma, the pack remains fit and healthy, thanks to Wilderness Safaris’ continued support, along with an on-hand specialist crew from PDC. Entirely dedicated to wild dog conservation in Zimbabwe, PDC is located in close proximity to the Chikwenya pack, and will also be constructing their Nyamepi research base in the area.
As Peter Blinston, PDC Executive Director, says, “The primary reason for the move was to mitigate a human-wildlife conflict issue on the eastern boundary of Hwange National Park. We are thrilled that the pack has acclimatised to Mana so well, and the fact that the alpha female is now pregnant is testament to the success of the translocation. We are proud to continue working with Wilderness Safaris and the Wilderness Wildlife Trust to ensure the pack will be at its optimum when released into the park from the boma in a few months’ time”.
As a company that has been committed to driving sustainable ecotourism in Zimbabwe for over two decades, this project demonstrates Wilderness Safaris’ ongoing commitment to conserving and restoring Africa’s wilderness and wildlife, despite the current challenges facing the business. “Furthermore, the funding from Wilderness Wildlife Trust has enabled us to continue contributing to this crucial conservation programme. We are proud of our collective efforts and partnership with PDC, coming together at this time with creative solutions that will help ensure a sustainable future for the wildlife in these pristine wilderness concessions”, concludes Neil.