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Project Update March 2007

Mar 28, 2007

Sometimes in Rains. Not in the real sense of welcome nourishment for the parched landscape, but in the sense of a seemingly relentless onslaught to our emotions, as our lives are intrinsically intertwined with those of our beloved dogs.

Beans died in March. He was the brother of our Umtchibi packs Alpha male, Pita. He was the dog that led the fight against the marauding lions, who killed three of his brothers new born pups back in July 2006. The courage he showed then won him a special place in our hearts and we have been desperate for news of his whereabouts since he dispersed from his brother's pack in October 2006.

Staff at the Wilderness Camps contacted us towards the end of February this year, saying they had seen a very sick looking dog on its own. It was collared and they thought that it was the same dog they had seen some weeks before, part of a pack of five. The Wilderness Camps are a long way from our normal area of operation, so we welcomed this news as a sighting but felt that there was little we could do as they did not know where the dog was on the day we got the report. Only a week or so later they contacted us again, saying that the same dog was now lying near a waterhole and looked even worse. I was in Harare, the birth of my son tearing at my loyalties and commitments. Jealous of course was on the case and accompanied by our Phd student, Ester, he drove to the location immediately. Three hours later, he picked up the signal from the collar, which identified the sick dog as Beans. Beans did not move as they drove closer and got out of the landrover by his side. They placed him in the landrover and rushed back to our rehabilitation facility and reasonable communications.

Beans was too sick to make the journey to the nearest vet in Bulawayo and so the vet, Bonny Reid Rowland, talked ester through the procedures necessary to try and save his life. These included stitching up his severed windpipe. His horrific wounds caused by a snare that had missed his protective collar and cut deeply into his throat. This wound and what appeared to be bite marks on his back were infested with maggots. Ester and Jealous, aided by our Office Manager, Foggie, did all they could but Beans died. My torment at not being there was complete and I lamented the fact that our clinic was still under construction rather than operational. Maybe, just maybe, Beans would be alive if the clinic was open, with a resident vet on hand and appropriate equipment available.

This tragedy was soon followed by the mysterious death of Marble, the Alpha male from our Mashambo pack. Jealous, as ever, was searching for the pack, relying on his acquired knowledge and the signal from Marble's radio collar. He picked up the signal but knew immediately that there was a problem as the collar was giving out the "dead" signal. A slow 6 beeps per minute pulse that tells us that either the dog wearing the collar has not moved for over 24 hours or the collar has fallen off. We always hope for the latter, but usually in such instances it is the former. This was no exception and Jealous walked in to find Marble's decomposing body. There was no snare, or sign of injury. Inspecting his mouth revealed very worn and broken teeth, indicating that Marble was very old and so perhaps he simply died of old age. We will never know. What we do know is that the Mashambo pack has now dissolved. Marble's death left the alpha female with her 21 month old daughter and two 8 month old pups. Jealous has searched their home range from top to bottom and not located these missing dogs. Confirmation of their demise perhaps came when one of the 8 month old pups turned up at our rehabilitation facility on his own. He didn't hesitate to take the food we offered him, however he has so far evaded all our efforts to catch him, as we surely must, as an 8 month old painted dog can not survive on his own. If we can catch him, we will integrate him into our "rehab pack", which is destined for release back into the wild later this year.