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Project Update September/October 2010

Nov 14, 2010

The sound of the chase, fast feet racing by, the kill and eating noises were all unmistakable. The Kutanga pack had killed an Impala. Good news indeed for them but wonderful for me as it was right outside my house in Hwange! I was having dinner with Esther, Hans and my Father, having just arrived back in Hwange after an unusually long absence of six weeks due to personal commitments, followed by the annual fundraising trip to the USA. It was as if the dogs were welcoming me back! A bit of an exaggeration in reality, but the coincidence of them making a kill right in front of the house only minutes after I got back was a little hard to ignore.  It was as if they were saying “welcome back and look at us, we are doing fine.” 

They were actually doing ok for once. Esther and Jealous had been doing a great job, keeping up the monitoring of the pack and dealing with what we now call the “usual” issues with the Kutanga. One of the males, Moth, had a badly wounded ear, which was red raw and hanging down. Esther immobilized him and cleaned the wound.  A few days later he was “fighting” with John and Romany, two residents at our Rehab and his ear got torn again!! Its healed now but looks rather floppy. Alpha male, Bullseye, has been limping around but has also recovered now as has the young female, Shoulder Patch. With the pack now spending a lot of time outside Hwange National park and thus in the poaching “hot spots”, we decided that all of them should be collared and happily Ester dealt with this. The collars not only give us a handle on each individual but also afford them some protection from snares and perilous roads. 

The fighting with our resident dogs at the Rehab is something we have not expected and is cause for concern. However, for now, we have built a screen to present a visual and physical barrier that seems to be working, though it has not stopped the Kutanga from “visiting” every two or three days.

The dog news on the whole is rather encouraging. We have received sightings of a pack of 11, another pack of eight and a pack of two. Greg, Esther and Jealous have been making quite an effort to get collars on these dogs but all of their efforts have been frustrated so far. Esther and Jealous came closest when they actually saw the pack of 11 at a waterhole deep inside Hwange NP, called Secheche. Thus the pack have been named Secheche. Their territory is deep inside the park however it is also close to the South East boundary, so collaring them is a high priority for us.

Our only real concern is for the Kanondo pack, which is just three dogs and hasn’t been seen in quite a while. Their territory is to the east of us in the Gwayi Conservancy, an area of intense poaching activity, which our APU patrol regularly.

Wilton and his Education Department team have completed a couple of very busy months, hosting five schools during the period, including the Harare International School whom we were delighted to welcome back after a year’s absence. All of the camps went very well as usual, with the kids having the time of their lives. Well over 4,000 children have now attended our Children’s Bush Camp. Wilton has added Dominic Nyathi to his team, tasking him with taking over the Conservation Clubs we established in 2008.  Dominic has a lot of experience in teaching in the local area and is a well- known figure. The Conservation Clubs is really an extension of the Bush Camp programme and aims to work with the same kids in their communities, engaging them in hands-on activities that carry a conservation message such as clean up campaigns and tree planting.

As ever, we are tried and tested and it’s with the help of your tremendous support that we can achieve so much. On my recent trip to the USA I was reminded that you can never say thank you enough, and certainly I will never get tired of saying thank you to everyone who has helped make PDC what it is today.