The African Wildlife Conservation Fund (AWCF) is a non-profit organization that started with the efforts of a few dedicated people working toward the conservation of an endangered species, the African wild dog, in Zimbabwe. After many years of work on the conservation of wildlife in Africa, we formed AWCF in 2005 as a way to channel attention and funding to on-the-ground wildlife conservation efforts. By 2008 our work had expanded to include the conservation of other large predators, community outreach and working with children in rural schools neighboring the conservation lands, working to stop illegal hunting for bushmeat and helping to raise funds for a rhino anti-poaching team.

The African Wildlife Conservation Fund is a registered trust in Zimbabwe (Registered Trust Number 0000476/2012).

The work is done with the support of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and Dr Groom works under permits from the Research Council of Zimbabwe.

African wild dogs (Photo credit: Trent Binford-Walsh)

The wild dog project began in 1992 with the monitoring of a small and vulnerable population of 36 wild dogs. The wild dog project’s presence enhanced the protection of those dogs and the population increased to 134 dogs by 2004, the highest density in the world at that time. The wild dog conservation project was started in Savé Valley Conservancy (SVC), which covers nearly one million acres of southeastern Zimbabwe. Today we work and collaborate with other conservation projects in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia, and Mozambique. Our goal is to protect the population as best we can while keeping our presence to the dogs minimal. We follow varying numbers of packs of dogs through the years using radio collars on a few pack members so that we can monitor their movements from a distance. We have expert trackers who work on foot, closely following dog tracks to find their dens during the breeding season. In good years we watch the playful pups grow up, and in tragic years we see them killed before they ever get old enough to learn to hunt. The wild dog population has come under many threats since the days of high population numbers, including pressure from lions and, preventably, from humans through snares set to capture bushmeat.

Stephanie radioing Reuben about a wild dog sighting (Photo credit: Belinda Serata)

We have expanded our monitoring and collaborations to the larger, regional population of wild dogs in the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLTFCA) that spans parts of Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Mozambique. The wild dog project now covers the entire Zimbabwean portion of the GLTFCA and we work closely with researchers working in the neighboring countries. Our research has shown how connected these populations are, and how important these large, transboundary protected areas are for the conservation of such a wide-ranging species.

Rosemary removing a snare from a wild dog (Photo credit: Patricia Groom)

A few years into our research and monitoring of the wild dogs of Savé Valley, it became clear that the primary threat to the species was posed by wire snares set by illegal hunters looking for bushmeat to eat or sell. During the first 8 years of data collection on illegal hunting, we recorded over 10,000 illegal hunting incidents. That huge number makes for many, many animal lives wasted that were left to rot by the hunters in long snare lines that catch many more animals than a hunter can haul out. We have recently become more focused on issues at the boundaries between wildlife and adjacent areas and started to work more closely with communities.

Stephanie recording poaching incidents with scouts (Photo credit: Peter Lindsey)

The AWCF staff on the ground are a group of very dedicated, highly-skilled Zimbabweans. This small team has made a huge impact on wildlife conservation in the region. They work closely with private land owners, national parks, local government, and rural citizens to try to find balanced solutions to sometimes controversial conservation decisions, particularly where people come into conflict with wildlife.

All of our work is done with the financial support of granting institutions and private donors. None of the officers or directors receive any type of financial remuneration for their efforts.