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Project Update Aug - Sept 2012

Oct 4, 2012

Story One: A dog’s life.

Jealous tells me that tracking the dogs is a hard life. I know it’s not easy, especially on those bitter cold winter mornings. But it’s not as tough as the dog’s life itself in the wild. This was recently demonstrated by   a female dog, “MK,” originally part of the Kutanga pack, when she decided to re-join the pack after struggling to hunt on her own after her sister, Sipiwe, had been killed by a speeding truck. I remind Jealous of this often and he responds with his famously big smile.

Jealous has been working hard, of course, as well as Greg and the rest of the research team. The dog news for Hwange National Park (HNP) and environs is encouraging in many ways. Sightings of nine separate packs have been recorded totalling approximately 60 dogs. Greg has been hot on the trail of the Lukosi pack that can be found to the west of us in the Sinamatella region of HNP. This pack is believed to number 19 dogs and certainly they have pups. But they have avoided all of Greg’s efforts to locate the den and collar them, leaving us more than a little frustrated. Still, a pack of 19+ for HNP is encouraging.

Greg had more luck with the smaller Nkwazi pack, which numbers three dogs, and he was able to collar one of the females. Securing the collar was an important step in community relations because this pack currently reside on ranch land adjacent to HNP and we had been getting angry phone calls demanding that the dogs be removed.- Such friction was reminiscent of the bad old days when dogs as charismatic as “Eyespot” were ruthlessly shot by rather unpleasant, ignorant, prejudiced individuals. So Greg spent several days sleeping in the bush, determined as ever to do what he could to protect the dogs.

Mana Pools still continues to impress us with the density of dogs and pack sizes. Greg is in Mana as I write and he has successfully collared two more dogs, confirming that the Kanga pack are indeed a separate and thus sixth pack utilizing the area. These six packs total approximately 80 dogs. Impressive compared to HNP, as Mana is a mere fraction of its size.

But the dog’s life in Mana is not an easy one either. Sadly, tourists and safari operators alike can, and do, create problems for the dogs. The Long Pool pack again denned in an area that was soon discovered by tourists and operators. A combination of enthusiasm and ignorance, with too many people getting too close to the den, caused the pack to move their den prematurely, resulting in the tragic death of four pups.

I hasten to add that many tourists and safari operators were indeed equally distressed by the irresponsible actions of others. Some even going to the lengths of attempting to block the road leading into the denning area in an effort to deter disrespectful visitors. Deliberately malicious and false tales add to the sorry tale but the fact remains that it was careless people who caused the pack to move and the pups to die. We appreciate the fact that tourists want to see the dogs, but we need to find the time and resources to build awareness and educate the public even more about their plight.

Story 2: PDC Base Camp.

The generosity of Diane and Ted Johnson has made it possible for us to undertake the completion of our Base Camp facilities. I’m delighted to report that work is finally underway! Perhaps most exciting of all at this stage is the completion of our solar installation at our Rehabilitation Facility. It’s not often that I thank specific donors in these updates as you all do so much to help us in so many ways. However I would like to express my sincerest thanks and appreciation to not only Diane and Ted, but also Steve Gold for his support in providing much of the equipment and tireless patience in answering our many questions during the past six years!!! The panels were sourced for us from BP by Bob van der A, the CEO of Compass Interim Management in Holland. The installation was completed by the generous donation of batteries from our new friend Mr Mahipala, the Group Chairman of BAMH Holdings in Sri Lanka.

Story 3: Iganyana Children’s Bush Camp.

A recent report of Bush Camp graduates informing on a poacher who used deadly cyanide to target elephants, is yet another story that serves to illustrate the impact of our world class education programme. The children were from the small village of Sianyanga. Very shy and quiet when they arrived at the camp, they soon opened up and had the time of their young lives.

This symbiotic relationship between PDC and the local communities has come about because Wilton and his team have worked long and patiently with villages like Sianyanga, which is in a particularly poor area.  PDC made the decision to invest in bore holes, which provide clean water to the local people.  As a result, the families are able to grow vegetables for their children and provide nourishing meals. When the children bring their own vegetables to Bush Camp, it reduces the operating costs of the Bush Camp for PDC at a time when we are struggling with fundraising. And because the communities are grateful to PDC for feeding and educating their children, they are willing to help us in our efforts to bring poachers to justice.   It is, indeed, a win-win situation for the community and the dogs.

Our Children’s Bush Camp is one of the programmes being affected by the drop in funding we are experiencing like many others due to the global economy. I have sent out a recent appeal to many of you and the response has been tremendous. Thank you again for your personal commitment and wonderful support.