Artists for Painted Dogs Autumn Exhibition 2021 raised a fantastic £24,000 in support of The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and Game Rangers International and we wanted funds set aside for EWT specifically to go to Painted Dogs.
There are only around 6,600 Painted Dogs, and just about 700 breeding pairs remaining on the continent. While snaring, persecution, and disease are some of the well-known threats, it’s a lack of safe space to wander that has ultimately taken the heaviest toll on the species. AFPD wanted to support in saving Africa’s second most endangered carnivore and opted to approach Cole du Plessis, the coordinator of the Wild Dog Range Expansion Project and Senior Field Officer for the Endangered Wildlife Trust. Cole told us about their latest Wild Dog reintroduction mission:
The Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) in collaboration with African Parks have reintroduced wild dogs into Liuwa Plain National Park in Zambia. The reintroduction was facilitated with the financial support of Bob Kwan and the technical and logistical support of the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and the Zambian Carnivore Programme (ZCP) in order to boost the tourism profile of the park and contribute to the long-term conservation of wild dogs in the region. But a reintroduction of this magnitude is no easy feat. As per the IUCN guidelines, the primary threat that causes local extinction of a species needs to be resolved before a reintroduction can be considered. There are also additional criteria we use to predict reintroduction success and identify any red flags.
A large investment from African Parks which manages Liuwa Plain in partnership with DNPW and the Barotse Royal Establishment since 2003, was required before Liuwa Plain could be considered feasible, but in late 2021 it was all systems go. Thanks to the Zambian Government and the BRE’s commitment to this landscape, Liuwa has emerged as a park not only hailed for the recovery of its wildlife numbers, but for its international tourism appeal. The reintroduction of wild dogs is a key milestone in this process of restoration, helping to build a valuable natural asset for Zambia and a future for this iconic species in Africa.
The first phase of the reintroduction was relocating females from Kafue National Park in Zambia to the newly established predator boma in Liuwa Plain. Following that, eight males from South Africa were then flown over and placed in the neighbouring compartment to the females.
Eventually, on 20 April 2022, the pack were released from the boma but were presented with a challenge outside of their pack dynamic. All the pack members are fairly young and had come from diverse ecosystems with an abundance of small/medium prey. They were now in a homogenous environment where the main prey base is Wildebeest. They needed to teach themselves a new art of hunting and acclimatize to the large hyena population. They also had to learn to integrate into a system where small communities reside with their cattle.
To date, the new pack have done well and seem to have crossed some of the primary checkpoints that might have otherwise seen this reintroduction attempt collapse. There is still learning to be done but with a strong pack quickly adapting to their new environment, and a fair bit of mating activity observed, we are confident in this pack’s success. Rob and Melani Walton Foundation, Stichting Natura Africae, US Department of State, WWF-The Netherlands, WWF-Zambia and the People’s Postcode Lottery have provided key support for the overall management of Liuwa Plain National Park, helping to build its ecological, economic and social sustainability.
During this reintroduction process, Cole du Plessis was involved in the capture and relocations of the males and the females that went to Zambia and visited for a third time to assist with the bonding process. These reintroductions qualify as a huge financial, logistical and emotional investment but seeing hope for a species that is declining across most of Africa makes it so worthwhile for this reason, AFPD have been a proud supporter of this reintroduction and the Wild Dog Range Expansion Project.