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Phinda Wildlife Research Project: 28 November - 12 December 2023*  

Benedict King: close-up of two wild dogs

Wild Dogs at Care for Wild!

Care For Wild opened its gates to a couple of very exciting temporary residents last week: A pair of female Wild Dogs. Any seasoned safari traveller will appreciate how rare and elusive wild dogs are – sightings in the wild will have even the most experienced field guide ecstatic. Quietly ecstatic, so as not to scare off these elusive animals.

These two Wild Dogs’ original territory was the Kruger National Park, but they broke out of the park for reasons that can only be speculated: One theory is that occasionally Wild Dogs leave their pack in order to prevent genetic inbreeding. This theory does make sense considering that 2 females alone would not form a viable population, as Wild Dogs live and hunt in packs. These two dogs had first been spotted in the Mara Conservancy area three weeks ago, when they took down and feasted on a kudu. They then took off on an exploit around the Barberton area before returning to Mara.

The decision was taken to call in wildlife vet Dr Ferreira Du Plessis to dart the dogs, for their own protection. Wild Dogs are highly intelligent and quick to capitalise on easy prey like livestock, especially when not hunting in their habitual pack. This puts them in the line of fire of livestock farmers, who are currently hard hit by a severe drought in South Africa.

The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), which has headed research and conservation of Wild Dogs in South Africa for many years, has already taken an interest in these two dogs and want to try and see if they can identify the females using pictures taken of coat markings of all the Wild Dog packs in the Kruger National Park. If they can be identified it will be of great scientific interest to see where they have dispersed from.

The Wild Dogs were brought to Care for Wild where they will be kept with minimal human contact for one month. They will then be released into a safe area, which is quite a challenge to find. Due to their incredible hunting efficiency, Wild Dogs require an enormous territory, and there are not many conservation areas of that size left. There are less than 450 free ranging wild dogs left in South Africa.