Fewer than 6?000 African wild dogs left in Africa

2011-07-25 00:00

A PACK of thirteen African wild dogs has been released into the uMkhuze section of iSimangaliso Wetland Park, after months of preparation.

The African wild dog is classed as critically endangered, with fewer than 6 000 left in Africa.

They require huge territories, and a major reason for their decline is lack of a suitable habitat. Only a few protected areas in South Africa are large enough, and have sufficient prey to­ host even a single pack of wild dogs successfully.

isimangaliso CEO Andrew Zaloumis welcomed the addition of the wild dog pack to uMkhuze, and said in a statement it was hoped that the new pack would soon establish itself and become a vital contributor to the metapopulation, along with other packs in the 332 000-hectare iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

Of an earlier pack of twelve released into the same area, only three survived, The Witness learned on a recent visit to the area. Some were killed by hyenas, and others died after being caught in snares.

One of the major threats to the establishment of free-ranging packs of wild dog is snaring, and this pack has been fitted with radio collars, which have been specially modified to provide protection from snares.

isimangaliso, in conjunction with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, has embarked on a drive to re-establish a full range of game throughout the protected areas under their control.

Game that has already been reintroduced includes elephant, black and white rhino, tsessebe, oribi, cheetah and buffalo.

The ultimate vision is to see 16 separate parcels of land united as one great park, and the game populations restored to what they would have been “in the days of King Shaka and before”.

Before release, the pack spent months bonding in a holding boma in the uMkhuze reserve.

The pack consists of six adult males and seven females — the alpha female already pregnant.

The males were captured after leaving Imfolozi Game Reserve, and conservationists struggled to find suitable females to form a pack. Attempts to bond the males with three captive-bred females from the De Wildt Breeding Centre in Limpopo failed, and the females were eventually returned to De Wildt.

A few months ago, the present group of females was obtained from Thanda private Game Reserve, and successful bonding took place.

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