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  • Andre Nell

Wild Dog Tracking Collars: Unveiling the Secrets of Nature's Nomads

Updated: Nov 17, 2023

Hurry up and wait….

This old motto could well have been drawn up by conservationists. Plant a tree today…and wait. Do groundwork today…and wait. The effect of just about anything we do will only be seen long after the fact. It is the long game that is important in conservation.

Swebeswebe has long been a supporter of the Waterberg Wild Dog Initiative. This group, very capably directed by Reilly Moony, aims to conserve some of the last free-roaming packs of African wild dogs in South Africa. Her work is vital for the conservation of the species, as Africa only has around 5000 dogs on the whole continent.

These canids, around 30kg in weight, 75 cm high are blessed with one of the most distinctive collections of markings of any animal. They live in groups of up to 30 dogs, led by an alpha pair. Their diet consists entirely of meat, and their appetite is ferocious. A group of wild dogs can strip an impala carcass to the bone in mere minutes, leaving only a few larger bones and skin for the insects to feast on

The wild dog's territory is vast. It covers around 100,000 ha of bush. Some farmers are tolerant of them, others…well…

It is to this end that WDI decided to collar a few dogs out of each pack. These GPS collars work with a battery, and though technology has given them greater range and capability, the battery does need changing from time to time. The only problem is that wild dogs are not exactly easily darted. They are a small target out of a moving helicopter, and the way that they speed through the bush makes it very hard to get hold of them.

Recently, Swebeswebe has been their hideout. It was a great opportunity to get the new tracking collars fitted. On our first attempt, the dogs managed to evade us.

On the second attempt, much closer to the Duna complex, we had a small crowd of neighbours, owners and staff waiting for the word that the dog was down. With a person on foot near the dogs this time, the helicopter and vet had a better chance of success. It still took a few hours of careful flying and more than a good measure of good luck, but eventually, the dart was in. Persistence paid off and the wild dog suitably sedated, arrived by helicopter. She is an adult dog, senior in the pack hierarchy, and absolutely beautiful.

I will let the pictures tell the rest of the story.

New collar for wild dog pack member
New collar for wild dog pack member

After the wild dog was let go safely, the team moved on to dart another dog, a young male this time.

Happy, tired and footsore people drifted home in the late afternoon sun. Footsore, not because of walking, but of waiting.



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