Mkomazi Newsletter 1999: African Hunting Dog
Captive Breeding and Translocation Programme
It has been a good year for this programme - the result of the success of the breeding and veterinary work that has taken place over the past four years. Much of the credit for this programme should go to the keepers of the dogs, Sangito and Ayubu, without whose understanding, commitment and care this programme would not be possible.
The dogs continue to breed. The alpha females in three of the four compounds had sets of pups. Not all of these survived, but the Trusts policy remains to interfere as little as possible in the breeding packs or with the mothers capacity to raise their own litters. Diseased pups are only treated when it is possible to separate them, treat them and replace them immediately, or when they can be treated as a group with oral medication.
Presently, aside from the original founder group, there are three sets of two-year-olds, one set of yearlings, two sets of new pups, and one pregnant female.
We prepared a budget for running this programme for the next three years, including a reintroduction budget, and the Ray Rowe Trust, which has sponsored the project from inception, agreed to fund 50% of it.
Dr Aart Visee, the Chairman of GAWPT Holland, and the veterinary advisor to the project, visited on two occasions to continue the veterinary programme and preparation of the 1998 vet report. This report will be available from Trust offices in February 2000. Prof. Osterhaus of the Erasmus University in Rotterdam continued to supply the distemper vaccines and to perform antibody testing.
In April 99 we were invited to attend a Wild Dog Workshop in Same. The meeting was attended by representatives from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, the Wildlife Division, the Tanzanian Wildlife Research Institute, Tanzania National Parks, Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority, Mkomazi Game Reserve management and ourselves. The meeting was to determine the future of the wild dogs currently breeding at Kisima, and, apart from one initial recommendation by an anonymous source to sell the dogs to zoos or destroy them (!), it was a success. The Tanzanian Government committed to their original aim and invitation to the Trust, to attempt to reintroduce these dogs into areas where they will have the best chance of success. The Wildlife Division subsequently started the process of putting together a policy on wild dogs and the basics of this reintroduction programme were started. IUCN guidelines are being consulted, as well as data and published papers relevant to this programme.
We are grateful to all the Tanzanian members for their support. Significantly, the Government agreed to accept the constraints of a reintroduction programme such as this (which has had only partial success in other areas in southern Africa) and to carry on trying, whilst simultaneously keeping the breeding programme on line as a back up.
The official report on the re-introduction programme in Tsavo National Park (which involved four males from the breeding programme here - see past reports) was published by Dr Richard Kock of the Kenya Wildlife Services, his colleagues, WWF and Tony. In summary, Dr Kock was positive about the reintroduction attempt, and the lessons that have been learnt for future attempts. The Trusts concerns on some disappointments of the early stages of the KWS programme were also published.
Roger Burrows, who has studied packs of wild dogs in the Serengeti for over three years, visited and spent time looking at the behaviour and demography of the captive dogs in comparison with those in the wild. Given the constrictions of their compounds, much of their behaviour was on a parallel with wild roaming dogs, and discussion took place on aspects of their reintroduction in relation to a captive upbringing and its consequences. Probably one of the most knowledgeable men in East Africa on the behaviour, distribution and problems with the wild dogs, it was a privilege to have him here.
The wild dogs that will be selected for reintroduction are, for the majority, those who would have naturally left the original packs. The decision on pack composition will be made by Dr Visee, Tony and Roger Burrows, depending on the area that the dogs will go to.
Despite the pressure of numbers, there has been no fighting - just the usual jostling to determine and maintain hierarchy and the pup mortality - yet likewise there is no apathy in any of the packs in each compound. It underscores the inherent civilised behaviour of these animals towards each other, even under such space constrictions.
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