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AfriCat rescues 9 'Deserted' Wild Dog pups!

wild dog pups wild dog pups

It was Sunday, the 26th of June – the evening before AfriCat’s annual health check was about to start . . .

Team AfriCat and the participating vets were in preparation for an early start the following day, when we received a phone call after sunset from the Chairperson of Okamatapati Conservancy (a communal conservancy approx. 160 km east of Okonjima) - a communal farmer was in possession of nine orphaned Wild Dog pups.

Wild Dog usually dig their dens and give birth during the dry months June, July and August. The denning period of approximately three months, is the only time of the year when Wild Dogs return to the same location every day, limiting their mobility which can result in a decreased encounter rate with prey species. For that reason, Wild Dogs often den in areas close to a water source that attracts a high density of ungulates during the dry season or near to another area of predictable and easy food supply.

The concerned farmer apparently suffered a loss of four-six cattle and in his misery, chased the adult pack off his property leaving nine abandoned pups behind. Instead of killing them (which is normally the case, by closing the den and burying the pus alive – or by throwing fuel down the hole and setting the den alight or by poisoning a carcass which usually kills the whole pack), the farmer contacted the Chairperson, who assured him that AfriCat would assist with the relocation of the pups.

In-between the manic madness of setting up veterinary equipment and discussing plans for the upcoming health check, Team AfriCat had to make their way to Okamatapati to collect the orphaned Wild Dog pups; upon arrival, the estimated five week old dogs were slightly hypothermic but otherwise seemed to be healthy and in good condition. Team AfriCat safely transported them to the AfriCat Carnivore Care Centre, arriving at 2 am on Monday morning!

The pups are currently housed in a semi-open holding facility, the same area Messi, Yogi and their sister Robin were housed in while recovering from their ordeal.


Meet SAHARA, ATACAMA, KALAHARI, MOJAVE AKA MO, SONORAN, GOBI, KAROO, NAMIB AND THAR. Unlike Team FIFA, who arrived at AfriCat exactly two years ago and who were named in honor of the football players of the Soccer World Cup 2014, we decided to name the current litter in honour of some of the world’s most spectacular deserts.

At an estimated 7 – 8 weeks of age, the pups, three females and six males, are becoming more and more active and explorative. Due to the fact that wild dogs are extremely prone to a variety of diseases, we are monitoring their temperatures and weight every 2 - 3 days, in order to catch a possible infection early.

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At this point in time, we are focusing on keeping these valuable Wild Dog pups healthy and strong; future plans of rehabilitation and possible release into the 20 000 ha Okonjima Nature Reserve, still needs to be assessed and evaluated.

Wild dogs have large spatial requirements and occur at low densities. Habitat destruction and fragmentation as well as an expanding human population have led to the fact that Wild Dogs mainly live in protected areas. Where they are still roaming in unprotected areas, they are actively persecuted. In South Africa, meta-populations of wild dogs are established through the introduction into geographically isolated reserves, but rely on active management programmes.

If the Okonjima Nature Reserve, with its healthy prey base, can sustain a pack of 11 Wild Dogs (including Team FIFA’S, Jogi and Robin) or if another suitable release site needs to be found, has still to be evaluated.

Since 2005, this is the 5th set of pups rescued by AfriCat after a phone-call from concerned farmers from four adjacent conservancies, where packs of up to 20 dogs are sighted; livestock loss is high chiefly due to the fact that their natural prey has been decimated by poaching and present livestock farming practices do not offer sufficient protection.

AfriCat, in communication with the Ministry of Environment & Tourism, has been given permission to hold the 9 Wild Dogs until plans for their future are finalized. 13 July 2016, AfriCat & members of the Ehirovipuka Conservancy, met with the Okamatapati Conservancy Committee to discuss the way forward regarding Conservancy Policies, research and human-wildlife conflict mitigation support programmes.

In March 2016, the Ministry of Environment & Tourism’s Carnivore Coordinator, announced the following: 'the African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus), has finally been up-listed as Specially Protected, under the Wildlife Conservation Ordinance 4 of 1975; this changes the legal status of the African Wild Dog, as it was not protected at all up to date, to the same status as Rhino in Namibia.'


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Update on our 9 Wild Dog Pups, September 2016:

Earlier than actually planned, our nine wild dog pups were moved into the adjacent, larger camp (3 ha) of their previous holding facility in which they were moved about a month ago. The new camp resembles a natural environment giving them the opportunity to slowly acclimatize to their natural habitat from an early age and allows them to start exercising their stamina. The inside of the camp is lined with electrical fencing to avoid the establishment of a bad habit of digging beneath fences which can be crucial for their survival in their future rehabilitation process.

All nine painted dog pups are in good health and we are relieved to say that this litter is causing the least problems (compared to the 2 previous wild dog litters rescued by AfriCat – 2005 and 2014) and concerns given the fact that wild dogs are very prone to diseases and the history of previous litters in mind.

Mo aka Mojave had to deal with a leg injury two weeks ago. Initially not knowing what caused his heavy limp combined with severe fatigue, we physically examined the source of pain and administered an analgesic. Due to his rising temperature to over 40 degrees Celsius we assumed that Mo suffered from an infection possibly caused by a bite from his siblings rather than from a fracture as initially assumed. After a single course of long-acting antibiotics, Mo showed an immediate improvement the following day.

As observed from an early age, Sahara still remains the dominant female while Gobi is taking the alpha-male position.

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Atacama left, Karoo right
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wilddogs sahara

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