Wild Dog Conservation
December 22, 2020

WATCH: African Painted Dog Collaring with Pippa Orpen 2020

Three African Painted Dogs were successfully collared to assist in their monitoring and effective conservation. With approximately 550 individuals left in South Africa, every African Painted Dog Collaring counts.

Video: Sven Musica with Love Africa Marketing

An afternoon of darting and collaring African Painted Dogs on Somkhanda Community Game Reserve almost became a failed mission when bad weather started rolling in and the sun began to set… until it didn’t. In the most incredible turn of events, the skies cleared, the wind died down and the pack of 13 Painted Dogs couldn’t have been in a better location.

“It all went so smoothly and the dogs were relaxed, which makes things a lot easier. I’m so chuffed – three new collars fitted onto the Somkhanda pack,” Pippa Orpen, Wildlife ACT’s SeniorMonitor and Node Manager, based at Somkhanda.

African Painted Dog Collaring 2020 with Wildlife ACT
Pippa Orpen fitting an anti-snare VHF collar on one of the Painted Dogs

This is a glimpse into an aspect of Wildlife ACT’s work to save this iconic species. Our team of passionate individuals who work tirelessly on the frontline, dedicating their lives to endangered species conservation. The African Painted Dog is one of the priority species which we monitor across multiple protected areas, including Somkhanda Community Game Reserve in Northern KwaZulu-Natal.

“With approximately 550 Painted Dogs left in South Africa, the next generation of pups are extremely important to the survival of this endangered species,” says Pippa. "This pack was bonded and introduced to Somkhanda Community Reserve in December 2018. The males are from Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park and the females from Khamab Kalahari. This is the second generation of pups born with this genetic bloodline.”

The African Painted Dogs from the Somkhanda pack were darted and fitted with either VHF anti-snare or satellite collars, allowing the team on the ground to collect baseline data to better understand home ranges, daily movements, individual and pack behaviour and diet. This information is then fed to reserve management to inform decision making on the reserve.

Depending on the species of animal, the collars can be customised with sensors to recognise different movement activity, temperature and even mortality.  All this data collected, assists the reserve management’s decision making processes to effectively monitor and secure this population.

African Painted Dog Collaring 2020 with Wildlife ACT

Somkhanda, owned by the Emvokweni Community Trust on behalf of the Gumbi Traditional Authority, and managed in partnership with Wildlands, a programme of the WILDTRUST, has a core focus on generating economic activity for the Gumbi community, primarily anchored by tourism and the wildlife economy. A species such as the African Painted Dog provides a significant attraction for local and international tourists and, as such, is crucial for the long term success of the reserve.

Daily monitoring of priority species allows Wildlife ACT to keep an eye on population dynamics, movements, ecological influences, disease, snaring incidents and any human-wildlife conflict issues. The information gathered allows for informed decision making - both at the reserve and the species level.

If the reasons for previous population declines are understood, management practices can be effectively adjusted, and in doing so, help to restore the population numbers. In addition, because Painted Dogs are top predators, their impact on the reserve needs to be well understood so that management can respond effectively.

The fragmented landscape of KZN, with protected areas being interspersed between agricultural and residential areas, makes monitoring of populations of endangered species crucial to their long term success.

African Painted Dog Collaring 2020 with Wildlife ACT

“If the size of our protected areas were to increase or we were able to establish new protected areas in wildlife corridors, we wouldn’t need to manage this endangered species as intensively as we do, but until that time we will need to assist them,” adds Chris Kelly, Wildlife ACT’s Co-Founder and Director of Species Conservation.

In KZN, every African Painted Dog pack is monitored by Wildlife ACT, ensuring a holistic understanding of the population in the province. In some areas, African Painted Dog populations have been severely affected due to illegal snaring (as a by-catch), especially in more remote areas where law enforcement and monitoring is difficult.

Painted Dog Conservation Successes:

  • Purely from this level of intensive monitoring, 29 of 43 African Painted Dogs were saved from poachers’ snares, and potentially many more prevented from being caught in snares as by-catch.
  • Some individuals have had limbs amputated due to snare damage. Four of the five African Painted Dogs that have lost legs to snaring have had a chance to continue their lives running wild again. And, although at a slight disadvantage, they seem to cope very well on just 3 legs.
  • Two of these amputees were females who have both managed to give birth to and raise two litters of pups each. 

“These statistics are clear evidence of how important wildlife monitoring is and how crucial it is for Somkhanda Community Game Reserve to partner with like-minded organisations such as Wildlife ACT in ensuring that there is successful monitoring and conservation of the Painted Dog population,” adds Meiring Prinsloo, Somkhanda Game Reserve Manager.

All of this would not have been possible without the support of our partners, The Emvokweni Community Trust, Wildlands (a programme of the WILDTRUST) and Wild Connection, as well as donors such as the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust, Wedgewood Nougat and Tim Suttorp.

Over the last 12 years, Wildlife ACT has monitored up to 70% of South Africa’s Painted Dog meta-population. Over this period we have also helped relocate over 385 individuals, treat over 144 African Painted Dogs from snaring and other injuries, and collared over 289 individuals.

If you’d like to support an African Painted Dog collaring in Zululand, please visit: givengain.com/cc/wilddogcollars/

Text by Janelle Barnard // Love Africa Marketing
Photos by Casey Pratt Photography // Love Africa Marketing