With just 450 free-ranging wild dogs left in the country, a new pack of “painted dogs” has been released into a private game reserve in KwaZulu-Natal to help boost the survival prospects of the endangered predator species.
Recognisable by their colourful coat patterns, these hunting hounds can maintain speeds of more than 60km/h for up to an hour while chasing down prey.
Once abundant in most parts of the continent, the species has been largely exterminated in north and west Africa, with the majority surviving in southern and eastern Africa. Because of the low densities at which wild dogs live and their need for large home ranges, they remain vulnerable to extinction because of the fragmentation of their former living spaces, human persecution and disease.
In South Africa, the only remaining viable population of wild dogs is in the Kruger National Park, which has a population of less than 200 dogs. As a result, wild dog experts have been trying to introduce new populations into smaller reserves in an attempt to mimic natural dispersal patterns.
This “meta-population” approach to wild dog conservation involves establishing new packs and moving individual animals between 10 smaller reserves from time to time to create new packs and avoid genetic in-breeding.
On Friday, a new pack of six dogs was released into the Zululand Rhino Reserve near Mkhuze.
The pack was established from four females from the Madikwe Reserve in North West province and two males from Zimanga private game reserve in KwaZulu-Natal.
They were introduced to each other almost a year ago and then released into a holding boma just before Christmas to allow them to bond into a pack.
Story from: The Mercury – read it here