Conservationists rescue a pack of SA’s last free-roaming wild dogs

Some 15 of the last known free-roaming African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) in South Africa have been safely released at an undisclosed location in Limpopo.

Conservationists rescue a pack of SA’s last free-roaming wild dogs
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This was after an unnamed farmer in the province’s Waterberg area had reportedly illegally captured them.

According to Derek van der Merwe, wildlife conflict mitigation officer with the Carnivore Conservation Programme (CCP) programme of the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), the farmer had captured the dogs because he claimed the animals posed a danger to local game and livestock. However, the farmer did not have the necessary permits.

He also allegedly refused to release the 15 dogs unless they were relocated elsewhere.

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CCP manager Kelly Marnewick spent weeks working with the farmer, the Limpopo Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism (LEDET), the Centre for Environmental Rights and other stakeholders to find a suitable solution.

“The dogs were finally seized by LEDET,” said Van der Merwe. “A satellite collar was fitted to one of the dogs and genetic samples and identification photographs were taken of each. Now that they have been released, their movements will be monitored via the satellite collar.”

Marnewick said, “There are just 450 wild dogs left in SA and it’s crucial that those remaining in the wild remain free-roaming and protected. Many farmers have chosen to implement conflict mitigation measures in partnership with the EWT, such as the use of livestock guarding dogs, in the interests of being part of the movement to conserve this species and ensure its survival for future generations.”

Earlier this year, conservationists were shocked to learn of the callous killing of four African wild dogs in the Waterberg area. Investigations found that three of the dogs had been deliberately run over by a vehicle, with one of these also being shot. A fourth dog had also been killed at the scene but its carcass could not be found.

“The EWT works closely with a large number of farmers in the region and most have indicated no problems with the free-roaming dogs at all,” said Marnewick. “Most were, in fact, happy to see them released again.”

The EWT said that SA only had eight protected areas housing reintroduced African wild dogs and that these were already at capacity for the species. It is estimated that only three to four packs of free-roaming wild dogs remain in the Waterberg area.