Wild Dog Conservation
April 4, 2013

Wild Dog diaries: Are emails taking conservationists out of the field?

I recently received some fan mail and thought it would be interesting to those of you who do not work in Wild Dog conservation to understand some of the unusual partnerships we occasionally have to consider. Our regional networking must be paying off…©NeilAldridge“Dearest Mr Jones,Please, may you receive this letter with peace of mind and with due respect as it may be very strange to you since I have not communicated or know each other before. I am looking for your cooperation in building a Tourist Hotel or Real Estate or to invest into another business you can advise me in your country. I am sorry if this is not in line with your business. I need your assistance to help me set up; develop the project with $5.4Million dollars only, which I inherited from my late father who is the owner of African Gold Market Investment West Africa, my late father has Gold mining site in Ghana. On the resumption of the project, you will be made a Director for the role and the assistance you rendered.Best RegardsMiss Lare FaysolibeBP 30 Abidjan 07, Ivory CoastAbidjan Coted'Ivoire (West Africa)”Dear Miss Faysolibe,This is indeed a very strange request since this is quite far from “in line” with my business of cooperating with others to conserve South Africa’s rarest carnivore. I do however feel your pain. It is heartbreaking that you merely have a budget of “$5.4 Million dollars only”. However, since we in conservation are used to eking out meager budgets to maximum effect, I am sure that we could keep all our country’s Wild Dog projects running for at least two decades considering inflation, a favourable exchange rate and the unfavourable rising fuel costs. We do after all rely solely on donations. Perhaps you should reconsider your investment. By last count there appear to very few, if any, Wild Dogs left in West Africa (war, habitat fragmentation, persecution and a thriving bushmeat trade are rarely conducive to sustaining large carnivores) and I feel you could make a real conservation contribution on the south of our continent; we already have quite a few hotels but less than 450 Wild Dogs in South Africa. As you may have heard as a result of the loss of your Western Black Rhino, extinction is not a myth. We are trying to avoid that in our country, even if conservation of natural capital may not be immediately financially rewarding or politically cool. We could certainly guarantee you a challenge, and although we occasionally wish for a conservation coup d'état you may have to settle in for more of a United Nations, slow-burn response to the problems; an unfortunate reality of the many vested interests we have to navigate.I would love the title of Director (this is indeed a big carrot to those of us only used to titles like “coordinator”) although I fear that may require me to spend more time suited up in an office, drinking tea, staring at pie-charts and responding to emails than being able to wear short pants and enjoy the brute power of a field-based Land Rover. As it is, nowadays emails are sucking most conservationists from the field to the computer and I am not sure we could handle many more without descending into the reckless mindset of a delirious gerbil. Having said that, if the title of Director, access to real estate and such a whopping budget means we could buy land which connects our fragmented Wild Dog populations, can genuinely alleviate the socio-political strains on the boundaries of our reserves, and reduces the political fallout dispersing Wild Dogs still cause when they leave “home base” I would consider that leather-bound chair and access to airport lounges in a heartbeat. Connectivity really does appear to be the key nowadays. I would have some ethical concerns about the gold mining practices in Ghana but we can discuss those once you show us the $5.4 Million dollars.Kind RegardsDearest Mr JonesThe initiatives to expand the current range, and facilitate proactive management of Wild Dogs in northern KwaZulu-Natal is carried out through collaboration between the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Wildlife ACT, Wildlands Conservation Trust and the participants within the KZN Wild Dog Advisory Group. The EWT’s national Wild Dog metapopulation project is supported by Jaguar Land Rover South Africa, Land Rover Centurion, RS Components, Knowsley Safari Park and Painted Wolf Wines.If any readers observe Wild Dogs outside of protected areas, please note the location of the sighting, whether the animal is wearing a tracking collar and identify, or ideally, photograph any characteristic markings. Please notify Brendan Whittington-Jones on 072 992 9483 or brendanw@ewt.org.za