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"Nyame, the Sky God, keeps all stories of the world in a golden box next to his royal stool..."

West African Myth

From African legends of witches that turn into hyenas, to the Berbers of North Africa, who believe that to kill a dog stains a human soul forever - there is no record in myth or fact of a Painted Dog attacking or killing a human being.

One story has it that the dog tamed man - not the other way around. But after millions of years, it is man who threatens the Painted Dog with everything from poaching to weakening gene pools and fragmented habitats. Paradoxically, humans can steward them back from the brink of extinction - and in so doing, perhaps the dog will tame the man in truth.

Painted Dogs have struck a balance against the hyena, jackal and leopard, who are notorious thieves of the dog's hard-won food. They survive even the lion, an enemy that kills adults and pups alike. But today's modern killer awaits them, mostly in silence.

Ignorance, traps, and domestic canid diseases are their quiet "hunters". An empty road suddenly fills with a hurtling car and accidently hits a dog. In other instances, a driver knowingly swerves towards them with a fear passed through generations of unfounded prejudice. It has been proven that the loss of just one dog can devastate the whole pack.

Open snares, set by invisible hands, are often the act of desperate human conditions. The poaching trade - tragically heightened by food shortages, unemployment, and land reforms that move farmers into former wildlife preserves - is another uniquely human factor impacting on the dog's survivorship.

The Painted Dog Conservation has targeted an additionally powerful component to poaching and hunting - a mental construct that encourages their use. The snares are condoned by people who justify them with unfounded reasoning. They believe the suffering of a dog in a snare is the lesser of two evils - more humane than the dog's behaviour, which quickly kills its prey for food. To debunk this reasoning requires persistence - visual, educational, and even celebratory elements within the Painted Dog Conservation programs that will continue to upend the myth of the grossly painful death by snare. The reversal of their use is through ongoing education.

Rabies and distemper - diseases borne by domestic dogs - permeate the pack through one dog. A sick dog can ultimately infect her caregivers and wipe the entire pack out. Likewise, while bloodlines are weakening due to thinning packs, the challenge is to strengthen gene pools. The components of genetics, as well as identification and containment of disease, are integral parts of the Painted Dog Conservation effort.