Project Update October 2008
I glanced out of the window as the plane came into land. The sky was filled with ominously dark thunderclouds and the impending storm seemed symbolic of what lay ahead for me. I was back in Zimbabwe after a seasonal fundraising trip to the UK and USA with Greg, meeting many of our old friends and making some new ones. Talk of the global economic crisis was on everyone's lips. Equally concerned as I was about this situation, I could not help but smile as I thought of the 200 million percent inflation in Zimbabwe and an exchange rate that had gone off the scale as the value of the Zimbabwean dollar continued its free fall into oblivion. Shops and other industries in Zimbabwe had started or were in the process of trading in United States dollars. There were going to be many new challenges ahead to keep PDC moving forward.
Thankfully the news of the dogs was brighter than the foreboding sky. Jealous had been very busy. He was delighted to present me with the news of frequent sightings of 8 packs in our immediate area, confirming our best guesses that the territories that we know of are in fact occupied. The sightings also confirmed something that is causing us more and more concern. The pack sizes are small, below what Greg's research tells us is a "viable pack size". The eight packs only total 24 adult dogs, an average pack size of 3. Two of the packs have pups, 3 in one litter and 7 in the other. We are earnestly looking for explanations as to why the pack sizes are small (the average pack size in 1997 / 98 was 6). Jealous is of course hot on their trail or should I say tail!
Before I had left for the UK and USA I had visited Chipangali, a wildlife orphanage near Bulawayo. In 2004 they had agreed to give us 4 out of the 7 painted dogs that they held. We released these 4 onto Starvation Island in 2005 and after a successful six-month stay on the island; we re-captured them and released them onto the mainland. So, my mission was to now get the other 3. Kevin Wilson and his wife, Nicky, run Chipangali. I met with them at the orphanage and soon realised how they were struggling to feed the animals due to the chronic economic environment in Zimbabwe. They operate with the best interest of their animals at the forefront of their minds and happily agreed that I should collect the three dogs on my return from the USA. What I soon realised was that the three I "knew" to be at Chipangali had tragically died and that the three they had were infact the off spring, born in June 2007, of the original ones. In away this was better, as younger dogs are easier to integrate into a pack, which was my aim.
Kevin and his wife could not have been more helpful and the translocation went smoothly. It was our aim to move the dogs without the stress of anesthetising them and this was accomplished with ease. Chipangali was constructed with much thought and it was easy to persuade the dogs to move from their large enclosure into a connecting raceway. It was then just as easy to get them into a large cage, used for transporting cheetah, and from that into our purpose built trailer for the journey to Hwange. Our resident dogs, John and Angela gave them a noisy welcome but all soon settled down and we all ready have them on a fence line with the three males that I hope to introduce them to, making a viable pack of 6, which will be the next candidates for Starvation Island sometime in 2009.