Last season Wilderness Safaris entered into a partnership with Painted Dog Conservation and Capmount Lodges. In that marriage an idea was mooted – to translocate a whole pack of wild dogs from Hwange National Park to Wilderness Safaris Chikwenya Concession at Mana Pools in the Zambezi Valley. Just a couple of months later, after laying down all the necessary groundwork, the translocation was complete – and very successfully too.

Prior to bringing in the dogs, there was the need to build a boma, which involved laying down poles, putting in fencing, and running a pipe to water a mud bath for the dogs. With everything at Chikwenya in place, it took further careful and considered planning to fly in the pack of nine.

The Healthy, Happy Wild Dogs of Chikwenya

The Healthy, Happy Wild Dogs of Chikwenya

These were nervy moments for everyone, none more so than the dogs, who had to be sedated and crated, then flown right across the country into new and uncharted territory. Upon landing at Chikwenya Airstrip it must have been a welcome relief for the dogs to finally touch down.

A short drive from the airstrip brought the pack to their new home, and their release into their temporary home was a joyous moment for all to see, with lots of hugging and running around – among humans and dogs alike. Imagine how it must have felt – this new place, the new environment, and the very different weather conditions; there were a few familiar faces for them alongside the gleeful faces of their new hosts (the Chikwenya Camp team), who were extremely chuffed to have a close-up view of this historic translocation.

The Healthy, Happy Wild Dogs of Chikwenya

Just one day in their new territory brought much excitement for everyone, as we received the most surprising of visitors: the local Sapi Pack, who probably heard overnight that there were new friends in the area, and so decided to pay a visit. It was heart-warming, and certainly a lesson for the human beings, on being homely and welcoming. From nowhere the local area pack came to see the new residents, and since then the visits have been more than regular. The Sapi Pack will go hunting but will always pass by to share a wink or a sniff with their relatives.

The translocated pack will be housed in the boma until April when they will be released into the wilds of the Chikwenya Concession – and hopefully we will see unions that will bear a new genetic strain of wild dog that will be adaptable to both the cold of Hwange and the warmth of the Zambezi Valley.

The Healthy, Happy Wild Dogs of Chikwenya

In case you are wondering about the need to go that extra mile in making this temporary home for the dogs in the boma, feeding them, and the general costs of putting them up in their lovely spot… the translocation was the result of the need to build dog numbers in the Chikwenya area; here they will thrive in an area that does not have any conflict between dogs and human beings (as was the case in their Hwange territory).

Wild dog numbers are on a sad decline, due to many reasons, but most significantly is human-wildlife conflict. In rural areas, the human population is growing and encroaching more and more into areas with wild animals.

The Healthy, Happy Wild Dogs of Chikwenya

The mortality rate for wild dogs is high and the noble thing to do, without interfering too much in their way of life, is conserve this special predator (that could teach human beings a thing or two if we took the time to watch them interacting, hunting and taking care of each other).

April is coming soon and we look forward to finding out the answer to the question, “Who let the dogs out?”!

By Eddie Mudzimu
Post courtesy of Wilderness Safaris

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