About Painted Dog Conservation (PDC)
PDC is a non-profit making Organisation registered in Zimbabwe. Its mission:
“Create an environment where painted dogs can thrive”
PDC evolved out of scientific research conducted in Hwange National Park in the mid-1990s, when it became apparent that painted dog deaths outside the Park were mostly due to human causes; snares, traffic accidents and shootings, led by general ignorance and prejudice towards the species. PDC’s core approach is to identify the critical issues and find a way to make a significant and lasting contribution to painted dog conservation, the conservation of nature and the lives of the local community with a special emphasis on the individual.
PDC’s sustainable conservation model is making a significant, long-term difference to the painted dog population in Zimbabwe.
More than 10 packs of painted dogs are monitored daily. Last year alone, this
saved the lives of five painted dogs caught in snares.
30,000 plus snares have been removed by the PDC Anti-Poaching Unit (APU)
The rehabilitation Facility with 8 enclosures and a veterinary clinic has looked after
more than 80 painted dogs since opening in 2002.
Community – Education - Outreach
More than 60 people from local villages are employed to run the various projects. It has created a strong bond between PDC and the community. Some villages are now implementing their own conservation measures, like voluntary APU’s.
Nearly 14,000 children have attended the PDC conservation bush camps, inspiring a love for painted dogs and conservation in general. Several are now back, working for PDC.
Art centre, community gardens, health facilities, conservation clubs; all contribute to people regarding the welfare of painted dogs as being of vital importance to their communities.
… and research
A deep understanding of painted dogs underpins everything PDC does. Tracking with radio and satellite collars determines distribution, behaviour and hunting patterns and identifies causes of injury or death as well as enabling monitoring of packs deemed particularly vulnerable or in unsafe areas. Blood, faeces and tissue samples are taken for DNA analysis and screened for infectious diseases or parasites. The results determine future management plans and are often used in scientific studies.
Why are Anti-Poaching Units so important?
Snares set by poachers are a key threat facing painted dogs today. Zimbabwe’s economy has been struggling, which has increased illegal hunting of wildlife to sell for profit or bushmeat. Painted dogs, although not the primary target, are particularly vulnerable because they cover relatively huge distances each day compared to most species and encounter many more snares. The scouts of PDC’s highly trained APU, including two tracker dogs, work closely with the Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority and Forestry Commission and patrol the danger areas bordering Hwange National Park daily, guarding against poachers.
PDC’s current fundraising wishlist
Equipment for 40 volunteer rangers - boots, uniforms, rucksacks etc. $6,000
Five VHF protective collars for painted dogs $4,000
Five handheld GPS for rangers and trackers $1,750
A trailer for the Anti-Poaching Unit K9 patrol members, Natasha and Jessie $3,000
Living costs for Natasha and Jessie for one year $2,400
A further five VHF protective radio collars for painted dogs $4,000
Three GPS collars for painted dogs $9,000
Conservation bush camps for 16 classes $43,200
We recently caught up with David Kuvawoga, Operations Manager at Painted Dog Conservation (PDC) in Zimbabwe.
What is PDC focusing on now?
David: Since March 2020, it has been a difficult time for Zimbabwean conservation, tourism and any economic activity.
Our focus currently is to increase direct protection of wildlife and wild places. At the beginning of lockdown poaching activities were low, which can be attributed to the total lockdown, so less vehicles and movement on the road networks to provide cover and easy movement of the bushmeat. As time went on people became desperate, some saw opportunity as sources of income depleted in many households, and poaching started to rise steadily.
We engaged the 45 men and women of the Mabale volunteer community scout group to come in and add boots on the ground as our current team of 16 had to concentrate on protecting painted dog dens in Sinamatella, Sikumi and Ngamo Forest area, totalling 1,565 km2. The community scout teams are now covering the private farm areas, around 1,721 km2, so we are spread wide over a large section of the Hwange National park buffer zone on the Main Camp side.
The engagement of the community scouts assists the local community economy and curtails some of the poaching we have seen. It protects the wildlife population as the snares are removed daily. We wish to engage the community in this manner for longer periods. To fund a team of 10 each month will cost US$3,000. Getting these teams in the field requires that they are fully equipped and funding for that would be amazing.
What are the plans for next year?
David: COVID-19 affected our children’s bush camp programme for 2020. The programme brings in grade 6 kids between the ages of 10 and 12 as part of our education and awareness strategy, teaching children conservation concepts that seek to influence the next generation to care and protect the environment. We plan to continue with this programme. Each 4-day camp costs US$2,700 for an average class of 40 kids. A budget of US$43,200 is required to conclude the 2020 programme.
To compliment the bush camp programme, our community awareness programmes will commence again. Following the increase in poaching it is imperative that we re-engage communities post COVID-19 and re-establish that social contact. COVID-19 has made lives difficult for many of the communities that we work with and this re-engagement drive would be critical, providing alternative livelihoods, promoting positive attitudes towards wildlife.
Our anti-poaching work will continue, hopefully with full support for us to engage
the community scouts again.
We will continue to track and monitor Painted Dog populations through our research department. Collaring more packs, a VHF collar costs about US$800
How has COVID-19 affected PDC?
David: Our belief is that, to save Painted Dogs, we have to work with communities, educate the future generation and have a healthy and motivated staff. COVID-19 disrupted our ability to continue engaging communities face to face and affected our children's bush camp program which educates kids between the ages of 10 and 12. Teaching children conservation concepts that seek to influence the next generation to care and protect the environment.
Of course, managing a fearful staff and community from the disease is not easy, families are always a priority and with the lockdown people had to make sure families were safe. We had put in additional measures to protect our staff and support community clinics we work with.
What is the idea behind Iganyana (Painted Dog) Arts and Crafts centre run by PDC?
David: PDC started the Iganyana Arts and Crafts as a means for communities to express themselves, at the same time generating an income. These incomes trickle into the economy of the area and support our drive to protect the endangered Painted dogs. The crafts made are mostly from recycled materials such as bottles, cans, caps and plastic. The main line is wire snare art made from snares picked from the bush by anti-poaching units, which are later turned into beautiful art pieces.
How has PDC supported communities during COVID-19?
David: PDC has continued to pay artists that work with the Iganyana Arts Centre despite lack of a market for their products due to the lockdown. We understand too well that communities need the incomes to support their families. We have also donated sanitisers, face masks, thermometers and detergents to local clinics.