Jeremy subscribes to the Painted Dog newsletter and received this news from Peter Blinston:

2017 came crashing to an end for all of us at PDC.

In the past weeks, we have witnessed the tragic demise of the Mabuyamabhema pack, who succumbed to rabies. Our desperation to locate the “missing” Destiny Pack grew. Had they also succumbed to the deadly rabies virus?

Our Destiny

The Destiny pack went “missing” for more than three weeks when rabies hit the Mabuyamabhema pack. Our anxiety for their welfare and well being grew almost by the hour as we searched far and wide for them, to no avail. Then, as if to reassure us, they emerged from who knows where and breathed life into our failing spirits.

I had raced out of the door after receiving a phone call saying seven dogs had just been seen on the road. I knew the location and as I drove there, I dialled the frequency for Browney’s collar into my receiver. My heart skipped a beat when the signal from Browney’s collar cut through the dull, monotonous static noise in my headphones.

Sam laughed as I shouted YES! YES! YES!

I followed them, with Sam at my side, as they hunted impala. I checked the condition of each one of them through my binoculars and to my immense relief, they all looked very fit and well. They settled down to rest in thick shade and we left them to digest their morning meal.
 
We went back to them in the early evening, and sat, anxiously listening to beeps as the light faded. Hoping they would come out into the open to give me the opportunity to dart and fit a protective collar on alpha female Lucy and beta male Ring.

With a child’s typical bluntness and simplicity, Sam said “why don’t you just drive in the bush and dart Lucy?” Simple enough! Why hadn’t I thought of that? I knew they were close and though the bush was thick I also knew, through years of experience, that I could do it. I would have liked to have Jealous with me, but knew that Sam’s eyesight and attention was enough to assist me to locate Lucy if she ran away after I darted her.

Lucy didn’t run away. She jumped up as the dart hit her and walked ten metres before lying down again. The rest of the pack hardly raised an eyebrow and within ten minutes I was fitting a protective collar onto Lucy as the pack sat watching!

Ring wasn’t so obliging but I did dart him the next morning, Christmas Day. And so, 2017 ended on a higher note than I dared to wish for.

Our hope now is for Lucy to follow in the impressive footsteps of her predecessor, Socks.

2017 by the numbers

  • 19500 km patrolled on foot
  • 6500 hours on patrol
  • 2500 snares recovered
  • 14 poachers arrested
  • 14 protective collars fitted
  • 14 life saving interventions
  • 18 packs monitored in Hwange NP
  • 4500+ man hours monitoring packs
  • 28 Children’s Bush Camps
  • 830 Children attended
  • 55 School visits
  • 7 nutritional gardens
  • 20 000+ people served by HIV/Aids Programme
  • 23 Conservation clubs
  • 18 conservation activities
  • 1300+ domestic dogs vaccinated
  • 50+ artisans engaged at Iganyana Arts
  • Iganyana Soccer league 67 local people employed

Other Noteable milestones

  • The first female scouts:Debra Maphosa, Belinda Ncube, Simisiwe Ngwenya
  • Sichelesile Ndlovu, the first female Research Assistant /tracker
  • Former Bush Camp student, Blessing Ncube, now employed as a Bush Camp Guide

Expanding our anti poaching work

The addition of detection / tracking dogs will greatly increase the effectiveness of our anti poaching operations. The dogs are still undergoing on site training but have undertaken patrols with our scouts already. We expect them to be fully operational in 2018.

 

Pictured left: Debra Maphosa, aged 29. Debra first volunteered to undertake anti poaching patrols with the Mabale Volunteer APU in 2014. This was in response to the death of the alpha female “MK” who was found snared near Mabale Village.
Debra volunteer out of appreciation for all the support PDC and the dogs had provided for her village and in particular the HIV Clinic plus the bore hole and garden project at the school. She knew about the Bush Camp programme as well because her niece was due to attend the camp in 2015 and she often talked excitedly to her aunt about it. because of this Debra felt that she needed to do something to help the dogs and the wildlife.
She was committed to this volunteer work and as a result she was offered full time employment with PDC in January 2017, when we were able to expand our anti poaching units.
Pictured centre: Simisiwe Ngwenya aged 43. Simisiwe also volunteered to undertake anti poaching work with the Mabale Volunteers in 2014. Simisiwe has four children who have attended the PDC Bush Camp, an experience her children “have never forgotten and talk about all the time.”
When she heard about “MK” being killed in a snare she was one of the first to volunteer, saying “these dogs have done so much for my family.”
Simisiwe was also rewarded for her commitment by being offered full time employment with PDC in 2017.

 

Pictured above is Belinda Ncube: At 11 years old, Belinda participated in PDC’s week-long children’s Bush Camp where she first connected with her country’s spectacular wildlife and grasped the importance of conservation.
At home she found a kudu (antelope) entangled in a snare. The animal was still alive and relatively unharmed. Belinda ran home for help, convincing her parents to not only release the kudu, but to track down and arrest the poacher who set the trap.
Bush Camp had made her a passionate champion for wildlife. In 2017, twelve years after the kudu rescue, Belinda returned to PDC eager to become an anti-poaching ranger.

 

Education can change the world

Our Children’s Bush Camp completed another successful year, its 14th, with more than 800 children attending the camp in 2017.

We are always looking for ways to quantify the success of this program in particular, because education by its very nature takes time to deliver results. We conduct many assessments and questionnaires, which regularly show how the Bush Camp improves the level of knowledge and performance of the individual children, when compared against the knowledge and performance of children who have not attended the camp.

However its often the anecdotal stories that provide the most powerful evidence. Stories such as Debra’s, Belinda’s and Simisiwe’s described above. 2017 provided yet another example of this, when the community from the village of Depota formed their own anti poaching unit to help us. Motivated by the Village Head, Mr Evans Shoko, who had visited the Bush Camp when the children from his village had been in attendance. he was so moved by what he saw that he immediately challenged to help the painted dogs that were providing this life changing experience for the children and so another anti poaching unit was established. Exactly what we need.

The evidence continues to come it. When we test the retention of knowledge in 14 year old children who attended the camp as 11 year olds, they score an average of 64.4% compared with an average of 28.1% from children who have not attended the camp.

Conservation Education is now implemented in the new National Curriculum with more schools requesting PDC education to help them with guiding their new tasks in Biology studies.

The National General science paper exam contained 8 items, which had been covered at the camp and teachers, acknowledged the importance of the programme.

Best of all was the performance of little Dingani School, who reached the finals of the National Wildlife and Environment Quiz. A success attributed to the knowledge gained at the Bush Camp.

Our hope is that when these children reach adulthood, they will become champions of not only the painted dogs but all wildlife, and thus they will help us create an environment where the painted dogs can thrive.

Increased Pack Monitoring

Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife asked us to expanded our area of operation in 2017 to cover the entire Zambezi valley from Kariba to the Mozambique border.

We accepted the challenge and placed Thomas Mutonhori in Mana Pools, where he did an excellent job. Working mainly in Mana Pools but also up and down the valley as required.

We certainly had our challenges getting started. Happily know one was seriously injured.

A new, much more reliable vehicle and decent accomodation are priority targets for 2018 that you can help us with.

In 2017 we fitted more protective collars then ever before. With seven of the Broken Rifle pack being snared, it was life saving work. Happily all of the Broken Rifle dogs survived because of our interventions.

While the increase in the number of dogs being snared was alarming, it was due as much to our increased capacity as it was to an actual increase in poaching activity. However, with a drought upon us now, we are bracing ourselves for a real escalation in poaching this year. Socks dying and the still unexplained, break up of the BaNyayi pack meant that our pup count was lower than we hoped for in 2017. However our estimate for the overall Hwange population is 180 – 210, which is the highest estimate in more than 20 years.

As if to underline this, a new pack has already moved into the territory formerly occupied by the Mabuyamabhema. We only know one of the five dogs, an adult male named Jairos (pictured centre). We need your help to name the others!

People, Politics and Wildlife

We don’t give hand outs. We give people a hand so they can help themselves. So much “aid” gets abused or politicised  and encourages apathy.


The ever youthful Dominic Nyathi, kept his eye on the ball!
While attending the Conservation Strategy Fund (http://conservation-strategy.org) workshop in Berkeley, California.

Wilton Nsimango and David Kuvawoga also had their suitcases packed for trips to the USA, where they undertook training in encouraging behavioural change, conducted by Martha Parker at Houston Zoo. Wilton continued on an Education and Awareness tour of USA Zoos, arranged by Brandon Davis and the Painted Dog Protection Initiative, while David attended the WCN Expo and also undertook additional Strategic Plan training with Arlyne


Chief Nelukoba (centre) continues to be a key champion and advocate for PDC.  Engaging with local communities is a life time commitment that changes lives.

We are along way down the long road towards the necessary behavioural change that will make a real and lasting difference to wildlife conservation in this region. 

However, our biggest challenge remains, and that is for stakeholders to take up their appropriate responsibilities and manage the area under their control. Far too many pay lip service to their responsibility and the actions of some could be considered criminal. 

You are vital members of our team and we can not thank you enough for your tremendous support and encouragement.

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