The Threatened World of African Wild Dogs
Dr. Gregory Rasmussen lives for the Painted dogs of Africa, as the wild dogs are called. He has been fighting for more than 25 years with his NGO in Zimbabweto protect this extremely endangered species, which is especially vulnerable to poachers’ traps. The Academy supports Dr. Rasmussen in this challenge.
Gregory Rasmussen and the veterinarian Dr. Ulrike Beckmann describe how difficult 2019 was for everyone at the Painted Dog Research Trust:
“Under severe drought conditions and faced with Zimbabwe’s economic rollercoaster, we are steadfastly pursuing our construction projects, our education programme for schoolchildren and the public, our training programs for students, scientists and rangers and, of course, the work with our wild dog packs, which we support through monitoring, radio collars and immediate help on site. The start to the year was devastating: Along the 70-kilometer-long highway between Victoria Falls and the border to Botswana, at least four adult animals were killed, including the pack’s heavily pregnant female, which had not produced a litter in the previous year. Death traps like this can lead to significant disruption in a pack’s social structure and may even result in total dissolution. As a result, over the past four years no puppies had been born to the packs along the highways. Luckily, a new pack of three formed out of the chaos.
The normal reproduction period (May – July) had already passed, but in early November it looked as though the female alpha dog ‘Anne’ was pregnant. Although her den was far enough away from larger roads, while equipping her with a radio collar, it became clear that Anne was in very poor physical condition and her life – and thus the lives of her newborn puppies – was in acute danger. (Note: Packs which are smaller than five adult dogs, are barely able to provide for their own food needs, let alone the markedly higher requirements of a nursing female and her puppies. Generally, the puppies do not survive.) At this point, Greg and his team forewent the usual practice of nursing the puppies by hand, and instead provided the pack with additional food. Anne and all five puppies survived as a result and started to roam again. Approximately 4,000 – 8,000 vertebrate animals are killed along the highways every year. The Painted Dog Research Trust thus initiated the ‘Never Give Up’ road traffic campaign in 2019. With the help of signs, an international PR campaign and social media appeals, the average speed on the Kazungula highway has already been significantly reduced.
Education and dissemination of information on site is one of the main tasks of the Painted Dog Research Trust. This year, various workshops for species protection biologists in training, as well as a comprehensive seminar for sociologists from five African countries were held at the organization’s camp.
Furthermore, the NGO was able to send its employees involved in the education of children to the US for advanced training. The participants returned highly motivated and full of new ideas, one of which was the construction of a children’s bush camp, which should be completed in 2020 and will make it possible for schoolchildren groups to learn on site. Three pilot schools have introduced the PDRT curriculum and, among other activities, took part with sapling cultures in the national Tree Planting Event. The NGO’s education team reached altogether 1,189 pupils. A total of 565 pupils took part in on-site interactive field excursions.”
The Academy will continue to stand behind the vital species and nature conservation work of Dr. Gregory Rasmussen and his Painted Dog Research Trust.