It was in February 2014 that I first went to Zimbabwe to visit Painted Dog Conservation (PDC). Prior to this time I didn’t know very much about painted dogs. I’d seen some in a conservation centre in South Africa about a decade earlier. But that was about my limit. I was intrigued to find out more about them.
The base for the project is on the edge of the Hwange National Park, about 20km from Main Camp. There are multiple strands of work within the project from working with the local communities running Bush Camp for school children to introduce them to painted dogs and the need to conserve them, an anti poaching unit who patrol the national park and surrounding area and a rehabilitation centre which not only looks after injured dogs but also tracks the packs who roam locally.
Pretty much every morning during my visit, I was up and out of the house early to go in search of packs of dogs alongside head tracker, Jealous Mpofu. PDC’s main aim is to radio-collar at least one (although preferably more) dog from each pack. These collars have two main benefits – the first is that they are anti-snare collars that can save the life of the dog should they find themselves caught. Whilst the snares aren’t meant to capture the dogs – they don’t discriminate against what gets caught in them. The second main benefit of the collar is they enable Jealous to radio track them. When dogs are found, photographs are taken (each dog has unique markings) to help identify each dog and catalogue their progress, faecal samples are taken (where possible – to analyse what they’ve been feeding on) and the pack are monitored for numbers and any injuries. These packs are generally found off the beaten tracks within the park – it was such an honor to spend time with them – watching them at play and at rest or following on behind, at a respectful distance as they journey onwards towards their next meal.
Whilst tracking the dogs was amazing – it was Bush Camp that left a lasting impression. It offers local grade 6 (10-11 year olds) the chance to stay at the project for 4 days. They’re collected from their school on a Monday morning and then taken back again on Thursday afternoon. During those four days they learn all about the painted dogs and the importance of conserving them and the environment. For these children, it is the first time most have spent a night away from the family home, for some the first time they’ve slept in a bed. During their stay they are given 3 meals a day – again something that many don’t usually experience. I shadowed a group from the local school in Dete, St Francis Xavier as they experienced Bush Camp. It was such a humbling time to be part of this journey with them.
When I founded the Global Wildlife Rescue Project in 2020 there was no question – Painted Dog Conservation was going to be one of the projects that we would support. The work that they do is incredible – not just in protecting the painted dogs but also with the local community.
I have seen first hand the incredible work that this project does. If you feel inspired to support them too – please follow the link below to donate. It’s only with the generous support from people like you that these projects are able to continue doing the amazing work that they do. Thank you.
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The Global Wildlife Rescue Project is a registered charity in England & Wales. Registered charity number 1188557.