African Wild Dogs are Southern Africa’s most endangered carnivore. Somkhanda Community Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal province has been one of the strongholds for the species since their introduction in 2014. Somkhanda has contributed to Wild Dog conservation through contributing to the Wild Dog Range Expansion Project and by playing a vital part in the Southern African metapopulation.
In September 2022, three male Wild Dogs were translocated from Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park to bond with the Somkhanda pack. This Wild Dog translocation was an important operation in an attempt to stabilise the pack after the previous alpha male unfortunately succumbed to hunting injuries.
The new males spent their first two months in the Somkhanda predator boma, settling in and adapting to their new home. In November the time finally came to release them into the reserve to meet the rest of the pack. When the gates were first opened, they were hesitant to leave the safety of the boma. But it didn’t take too long before they all sprinted out and spent the next couple of hours exploring the surrounding area. All three males were fitted with VHF and Satellite or LoRa-WAN tracking collars, allowing us to monitor their movements throughout the park remotely.
During the same period, the team needed to closely monitor the main pack to see how they reacted to the release of three new males. There were also three sub-adult males in the pack which were possibly complicating and delaying the bonding process with the new males. Once Wild Dogs reach a certain age, it is within their nature to disperse from their natal pack in search for mates to form their own pack with. Due to Wild Dogs existing in small, fenced habitats with the lack of safe space to allow for natural dispersal, Wild Dogs in the province need to be intensively managed as a metapopulation.
Therefore, in December, Wildlife ACT and Somkhanda Community Game Reserve staff worked together with Dr Mike Toft to capture the three sub-adult males and move them to another boma where they would be bonded with females from another pack. One week later, there was cause for celebration when the Somkhanda pack and the new males met up. The newly-bonded pack has stayed together since.
The rearing of the sub-adult males to reproductive age on Somkhanda, and the introduction of the three new adult males is considered a great success story in the province’s efforts towards conservation of the species, despite the many challenges they face. It comes to show that good tracking equipment, reliable vehicles, hard-working field staff and strong partnerships are vital to conservation victories such as this.
** From the release of the new males into the larger reserve until the successful bonding with the pack, the team spent a total of 310 hours in the field and 2,224 km driving to monitor them and help ensure their safety.
This Wild Dog translocation was made possible thanks to the following partners: Ford Wildlife Foundation, Hans Hoheisen Wildlife Research Station, Somkhanda Big 5 Tourism, Wildlife ACT, Protank, Wildlife ACT Innovations, PAMCo, Endangered Wildlife Trust, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, and Dr Mike Toft.
Donate towards our African Wild Dog Programme HERE.