Saving Wild Dogs in Zimbabwe: PDC

Painted dogs in Zimbabwe fight back thanks to PDC

A species once numbering some 500,000 spanned across 39 African countries, the African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus) is now one of the most endangered species on the continent. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, these elusive canids are critically endangered and now number only 3,000 to 5,500 continent-wide. One of the largest populations of these Wild Dogs, also called “Painted Dogs” for the splotches of black, tan, white and gold on their coats, is in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.

Video of our visit to PDC

Whilst the Hwange area has historically held good densities of these animals due to its ideal habitat and abundance of prey species, an increase in human settlements has drastically reduced painted dogs numbers. Increasing pressure exists in the form of habitat fragmentation and human–wildlife conflict, most especially poaching snares, shooting and road kill, which account for 95% of all dog mortalities in Zimbabwe. In a country facing such difficult socio-economic conditions, limited employment opportunities and sporadic rainfall that negatively impacts farming yields, has resulted in illegal bush meat hunting becoming rife. Poachers commonly use wire snares, which kill large animals indiscriminately. Painted Dogs are particularly vulnerable to injury or death by snares because they cover a lot of ground while hunting (They can travel more than 12 miles per day on average). In addition to snares, poachers have been known to poison water sources with cyanide. They are normally targeting elephants for their ivory but kill a variety of other species in the process.

Luckily for these animals, they are not alone in their fight for life. A huge amount of credit for their survival must go to Painted Dog Conservation (PDC), a non profit organisation that has increased Zimbabwe’s African Painted Dog population from 400 to 700 individuals since their inception in 1992. Driven not only by the desire to make a substantial, lasting contribution to painted dogs and nature conservation, they importantly also work closely with the local community, directly benefiting local people with employment and unparalleled education opportunities, a leading model for community-based conservation.

Wild Dog female and her pups

How does Painted Dog Conservation work?

PDC and their staff of 55 divide into four sections; Anti Poaching, Rehabilitation & Research, Conservation Education and Community Development.

1.Anti Poaching Units:
  • Undertake daily patrols providing direct protection for the painted dogs
  • Collect Snares
  • Track packs and report back research data.
2. Rehabilitation & Research Facility:
  • Help injured or orphaned individual painted dogs
  • Translocate entire packs from problem areas
  • Research: The team focus on prey base and habitat loss as well as potential genetic issues for the national painted dog population. They monitor packs in Hwange National Park, Victoria Falls and the Zambezi Valley.
3. Conservation Education:
  • Children’s Bush Camp: Teaches conservation concepts while promoting an emotional attachment to nature that will lead to a lifelong attitude of caring for it. The 4 day camp is FREE for local children.
  • Visitor Centre: Features a free entry Interpretive Hall, which teaches visitors about the greater Hwange ecosystem, the plight of the painted dog and the significance of biodiversity.
  • Conservation Clubs at the local schools: Children undertake both practical and theoretical exercises such as tree planting, clean up campaigns, drama and poetry performances, which benefit their communities at large and further enhance and appreciation for and understanding of the environment.
4. Community Development
  • Iganyana Arts Centre: The Centre provides an income generating opportunity for an average of 25 artisans each day, who make unique crafts from reclaimed and recycled materials, including wire snares removed from the bush. Proceeds go to the Conservation Centre and the local artisan.
  • Community Gardens: Improve nutrition and food security.
  • Water: PDC provides direct funding for or facilitates the drilling of bore holes to provide clean reliable waterfor communities, which in turns allows for the establishment of nutritional gardens.
  • PDC facilitates the establishment of income generating projects such as bee keeping, chilli growing and the garden projects mentioned above, with the aim of improving the livelihoods of individuals and their families alike.
  • HIV / AIDS. PDC arranges for and supports St Patricks Hospital, and have established monthly counselling and testing clinics for their staff and the surrounding communities, to encourage people to live a healthier life style.
  • PDC sponsors the local soccer league to engage the areas youth in a meaningful, motivational and healthy pursuit.
Game Drives at PDC
Education Centre at PDC

A hugely successful community based model, it is clear to see that each area of work is as important as another, with results that speak for themselves, not just from the Dogs perspective but the communities too. However, whilst some challenges abate, others wane on – the area that the anti poaching team needs to patrol is massive and combined with an under resourced Hwange National Parks Team, rangers continue to be overwhelmed with too big an area to patrol and too few resources to deploy. The resources they do have are in constant need of update and repair – old vehicles that struggle to keep up with the work load, not enough collars compared to the number of dogs – the amount of resources required in an operation like this is hefty.

How can you help PDC?

As a testament to the centre, the funding and support they have attracted from the likes of the AWF, Tusk Trust and others, certainly helps, as will the EUR25,000 PDC are soon to receive as a result of winning the 2017 ReDEW Earth prize (Congratulations PDC!!). That said, the organisation rely totally on the generosity of their supporters and we ask that you help them by making a donation to continue their work to help save Painted Dogs in Zimbabwe.

Visit PDC on your next safari and support their amazing work! Our Painted Dogs of Zimbabwe Impact Itinerary helps you do just that!

Visiting the PDC HQ in Hwange
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