Land Rover and Carnivore Conservation Group

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Carnivore Conservation Group, Endangered Wildlife Trust

It seemed an unlikely situation and we were sceptical. Five Wild Dogs reported in a eucalyptus plantation in Teza, 25km south east of the southern boundary of Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park (HiP).

We’d never received a report from there before; or anywhere close to there for that matter. But the fact that a HiP field ranger had been the witness while on time off and
then finding the characteristic slim Wild Dog spoor in the powdery grey sand left us in no doubt that Wild Dogs were traversing this potentially risky landscape. Roads, domestic dogs and humans with a less-than-accommodating attitude are all major dangers beyond the boundaries of protected areas.

While the dogs haven’t been seen again (we had no opportunity to identify them so we are not sure if these dogs were a small group on a dispersal excursion from HiP), the
response from the local commercial farmers and Zululand Fire Protection Services was fantastic and it’s incredibly encouraging to the project to know that this sort of support
network exists.

Our primary suspects for who these mystery dogs could be made us think immediately of the Karate Boys; five males who were collared in May 2008 but whose collar had
subsequently stopped working. With no confirmed sighting of this pack for over four months the solid odds were on them.

A day later this theory was tossed on its head as these five dogs were seen and photographed near the western boundary inside HiP.

And they had become six with the addition of a breakaway female dog from another nearby pack. A stroke of good fortune for us had meant that Mduna, a dispersing Wild Dog from a nearby reserve who had been collared and introduced into HiP about a month earlier, had found what we’d been searching for, for several months, in a matter of days.

To put this minor miracle into perspective, assuming the Karate Boys remained inside HiP it meant they effectively had 960 km² at their disposal. Although slightly unusual for an unrelated single male to meet up with a group of male dispersers, the meeting had been courteous and diplomatic (with the exception of a brief attack dished out to an intrusive Spotted Hyaena), and just the break we needed to find the boys and put in place a plan for darting and recollaring them.

As was expected with such transient individuals, Mduna moved on that evening and his current location is unknown, as is the identity of the 5 dogs seen at Teza. The boys were found the following day and although the morning’s attempts at darting were frustrating and fruitless, the evening was a success.

And just when we thought that was the excitement for the fortnight, three Wild Dogs were seen heading across the muddy flats from Eastern Shores to Bird Island by two field rangers patrolling in Isimangaliso Wetland Park. Again the speculation has started as to the origins of these dogs.

Could they be dispersers which left Mkhuze Game Reserve in 2006, or are they a combination of dogs which have over time escaped HiP and introduced themselves into IWP without our manipulation?

Either way, we hope they settle there long enough for us to find out.