Lowveld Wild Dog Project

African wild dogs, also known as painted hunting dogs, are southern Africa’s most endangered large carnivore. With their unique and striking coat patterns, their intelligence and their highly interactive and caring nature, wild dogs are truly one of the most awe inspiring species alive today.

Wild dog pups at play (Photo credit: Rosemary Groom)

Regurgitating meat for pups (Photo credit: Paul Funston)

Wild dog portrait (Photo credit: Paul Funston)

Unfortunately, global wild dog populations are declining, due to habitat loss, human persecution, disease (especially rabies), accidental by-catch in wire snares, loss of prey and competition with larger carnivores like lions. The Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLTFCA), which comprises key wildlife areas in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Mozambique (view map), hosts a critically important, yet highly threatened population of these endangered carnivores.

The Lowveld Wild Dog Project was initiated in 1996 in the Savé Valley Conservancy (SVC), which covers an area of nearly one million acres in southeastern Zimbabwe and is a key part of the GLTFCA. This remains our focal study area, and here the LWDP team (Dr. Rosemary Groom and scouts Rueben Bote and Misheck Matari) closely monitor the population of 80-90 wild dogs comprised of nine packs. The aim is to understand pup survival rates, causes of mortality of adults and pups, movement patterns, potential conflict, genetic diversity, inter-specific competition and the impact of various conservation measures. In a three year period, 53% of known adult wild dog mortality was due to snares and 23% to rabies. Lions were the greatest cause of pup mortality (75%).

Misheck with an immobilized wild dog (Photo credit: Rosemary Groom)

Rueben tracking (Photo credit: Rosemary Groom)

Our project thus aims to mitigate the major threats to wild dogs in this key conservation stronghold through management-oriented research, hands-on conservation and community education and outreach. The LWDP team’s work includes:

  • Collaring and monitoring key packs (6-8 packs) using traditional spoor tracking, radio telemetry, camera traps at dens and photographic identikits
  • Rabies vaccination campaigns in the domestic dog populations surrounding key wildlife areas
  • Snare removal from wild dogs
  • Antipoaching to remove wire snares from key wild dog home ranges and den site areas
  • Working in primary schools and communities surrounding wildlife areas to increase awareness and improve education standards and opportunities for neighboring communities

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

Rabies vaccination campaign (Photo credit: Rueben Bote)

AWCF also works at the regional and international level, in collaboration with projects in Mozambique and South Africa on large-scale conservation initiatives, including regional photographic databases, cross-border law enforcement and large-scale genetic studies.