The greatest threat to the Painted Dog's survival in Zimbabwe is poaching activity by people from the communities that border the dog populations. Intervention, rehabilitation and anti-poaching patrols are crucial when every individual's life is precious. But education and sustainable development in local communities are the long-term solutions to the problem.
Desperation associated with poverty and unemployment leads local people to abuse their natural resources, even if they know better, in order to merely survive. Since the tourism crash that began in 2000, unemployment in local communities has soared to over 90%. Before this time, when Hwange National Park was a world-class safari destination, the tourist industry was the greatest employer of local people.
The Painted Dog Conservation project provides employment opportunities and promotes environmentally sustainable income generating projects. These improvements go hand-in-hand with education. And with instructional programs teaching that the flawed use of resources will adversely affect the future of everyone, students learn that healthy wildlife populations impact not only the economy, but also their emotional experience of the wild.
PDC is delighted to report that graduates of the Bush Camp Program are inspiring adults at home to come and attend adult PDC workshops, while 7th-graders are doing better in Environmental Science classes.
Presently, the Painted Dog Conservation project conducts four main conservation education programs - all based at the project's Community Conservation Education Complex (CCEC):
The Children's Bush Camp Program - To teach local children conservation concepts, an understanding of ecological relationships, the value of biodiversity, an appreciation of painted dogs and the role they play in ecosystems, and to inspire an emotional attachment to the beauty and complexity of nature.
The Community Outreach Program â€“ To show the positive outcomes of conservation and its impact on the economy through local mentors, schools and community services.
The Community Development Program - Linking Conservation Education and Natural Resources Development, Use and Management with the hope to bring direct and real benefit to the local peoples in terms of increased livelihood opportunities.
The Visitor Centre's Interpretive Hall and Trail System - To give a non-invasive experience of the elusive Painted Dogs, their wilderness habitat, and the creatures of their world.
The Arts Center - To create an outlet that will support and encourage local artists, adult and children alike, that will inspire pride of local wildlife and community talent.