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"This is what we want. This is why they're on the island. They have to learn to work cooperatively together. In 2007 we took our second pack of dogs over there, and it's all been filmed. They're becoming kind of movie stars, these dogs..."

Peter Blinston
Managing Director, Painted Dog Conservation

Starvation Island

This inappropriately-named island in Lake Kariba between Zimbabwe and Zambia serves as a transition, or staging, area for painted dogs learning to live and hunt as a pack. Freedom on the mainland is their eventual goal.

Painted Dog Conservation (PDC) occasionally finds or receives injured or sick dogs, dogs that have lost pack members or dogs that need to be rescued from potentially dangerous situations. They are cared for in PDC's 80-acre rehabilitation facility until they are well and can be re-released. But the fenced enclosures, however large, cannot simulate real life for the dogs. They must have a more natural setting to form packs, learn to hunt as a team and build the strength needed to survive in the wild. Starvation Island serves as a safe area for dogs to form bonds and learn together in a natural environment. Once they are working well as a pack and thriving on the island, they can then be released in the mainland to live in a national park or other dog-friendly area. Their bond as a pack will last their lifetime.

Starvation Island was formed when the Zambezi River was dammed. It is three miles long with a variety of shrubs and grasses. Until recently there were no large predators on the island - only impala, waterbuck, elephants, baboons and a single civet. But in summer 2008, lions were spotted on the island, indicating that they were able to swim across the river and avoid the large crocodiles lurking below the water.

Painted Dog Conservation chose Starvation Island as safe transition area because of its remote location from people, good prey base and until recently, lack of other predators. Access to the island is by boat from the mainland. PDC has developed a good relationship with the National Park personnel, who assist them with transport, logistics and monitoring of the dogs.


Starvation Island News

News about our work on Starvation Island can frequently be found in our news updates.