31 Mar

Lapalala Wild Dog Diary

It’s a privilege to live and work in an area of South Africa that is not just beautiful with spectacular scenery, but is also home to 26 of the last wild dogs that roam freely in the wild.

The lives of 12 of the 26 dogs are currently hanging in the balance, and if it was not for the great work of the team from Endangered Wildlife Trust, things would have been very different.

This particular pack of wild dogs like to move through an area that stretches through Vaalwater, close to Nylstroom — an area that contains a lot of cattle and game farmers that cannot afford the loss of livestock from hungry wild dogs. The Endangered Wildlife Trust plays a very big role in protecting these dogs from angry farmers, and they decided to move the pack of dogs to Lapalala wilderness to ensure that they don’t get killed in their travels through the Waterberg.

The EWT team has allowed us to come along for the move, and document what happens with a daily diary.

Episode 1 – Searching for the Dogs

We were very lucky to locate the dogs very close to Lapalala wilderness early in the morning, and we moved into the area so as to get a precise location. After struggling to find them, we started calling them closer to evaluate their behaviour and also to check the Alpha male and female. Unfortunately for us, they moved quite far away, to a neighbouring farm, which meant requesting permission for the afternoon to operation on their farm. To say the least, these dogs are highly intelligent and also very tenacious, which makes it so much more difficult when darting them with the tranquilliser.

Day 1: Afternoon – Habituating 

We finally found the dogs resting in an open area that was ideal for darting. But first, we needed to get an impala carcass down to coax them over. It didn’t take long before the first dog made an appearance, and what a sight that was. It began to rain all around us — and the wild dogs were also a little “’skittish’’ with the vehicles — so the decision was made to feed them and leave them for the afternoon.

They did not even touch the impala but did look very interested in the free meal.

Day 2: Back Again

The wild dogs had not moved from where they were the previous day, which made the morning operation a lot easier. We set everything in motion, and before we knew it they had moved in. It was wonderful to watch the playful painted wolves moving around, investigating what is going on.

With the announcement of country wide lockdown this week, it was decided that we will give the dogs the 21 days to relax with a carcass every day, and we will be working on habituating them and getting them more relaxed around people. We will keep updating you on their progress and you can come along for the ride!



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