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Painted Dog Conservation - Gregory Rasmussen
http://www.painteddog.org

The African wild dog, or painted hunting dog, was once common in Africa, with numbers over 500,000 in 39 countries. The effects of human encroachment have drastically reduced their range and numbers. Currently, an estimated 3000 dogs remain, and are restricted to four southern African countries: Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. With time running out, the Painted Dog Conservation project (PDC) is developing innovative solutions to protect this unique wild canid. Based in Hwange National Park in western Zimbabwe, PDC works with local communities to create and execute new strategies for conserving the wild dog and the habitat it shares with people and other predators.

African wild dog pack
Greg Rasmussen with a wild dog

Greg Rasmussen is the founder and director of the Painted Dog Conservation project. Greg is British-born but spent much of his childhood in Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia). After college, he worked his way into a job on a wild dog project in Hwange National Park, sold all his belongings and moved permanently to Zimbabwe to live and work for the protection of the wild dog. With over 13 years experience working with wild dogs in Zimbabwe, Greg has earned his title as "the most enthusiastic and dedicated wild dog conservationist."

The goal of PDC is to conserve and increase the range and numbers of wild dogs in Zimbabwe and other range countries. Hwange National Park is home to 17% of the total wild dog population and serves as a keystone population for dispersing wild dogs into other regions. The major threats to wild dogs include snares, shooting and poisoning (for traditional medicine and fear of livestock predation) and road kills. Wild dogs are also under threat from introduced diseases: as human populations encroach on the dogs' habitat, contact with domestic dogs increases, and transfer of canine distemper and rabies is a major threat to entire populations.

PDC has developed several conservation strategies to improve the status of the wild dog among local communities, and to help protect the dogs and their habitat:

Radio collared wild dog

PDC works with ranchers to improve the status of wild dogs. Color-coded collars on dogs show ranchers that dog numbers are much lower than suspected. As a result, PDC has secured a cease-fire in farming areas where dogs are re-colonizing

Anti-poaching patrols carry out daily patrols throughout the region. Over 15,000 snares have been collected. The snare wire is then used to make handicrafts to be sold to visitors as an alternative source of income for local communities

Road signs have been erected and reflective collars fitted on many of the dogs. Road kills have been reduced by 50%.

PDC monitors dog packs with radio collars, gathering valuable information on their movements, hunting success and causes of mortality. Their breakthrough work with translocation and integration of dogs, as well as with new non-invasive capture techniques, is offering hope for wild dogs to expand their range into predator-friendly areas

Gaining the trust and respect of local people is an ongoing process and has helped to transform many poachers into advocates for the wild dog and participants in the project

A rehabilitation facility cares for injured dogs until re-release

Inspiring the next generation, PDC operates an environmental education Bush Camp free of charge for all local 6th grade schoolchildren. During four exciting and deeply enriching days, the children revolve through a series of experiential learning activities led by specially trained local guides. Upon seeing local wildlife (many for the first time in their lives!) and gaining an understanding of the complex ecology of the wild African savannah, bush camp graduates leave with an emotional attachment to caring for the beauty and complexity of nature.

PDC's future goals include building a Community Conservation Education Center for schoolchildren, local communities and visitors, which will directly benefit local people through increased employment and unparalleled educational opportunities. PDC is also working to expand their conservation education program to be included in the national curriculum.

Due to the combined efforts of the Painted Dog Conservation project and the local communities, Zimbabwe's wild dog population has increased from 400 to 700 individuals since the inception of the project. Wild dogs are now the number one animal that tourists want to see, surpassing lions, elephants, rhinos and leopards. Once considered a pest, the wild dog has become a symbol of national pride in Zimbabwe. WCN is committed to assisting PDC in its work to insure a protected future for this beautiful wild canid.

African wild dog pups

 

 
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