Dr Greg Rasmussen
Painted Hunting Dog Research Project (PHDRP), Hwange, Zimbabwe
Painted Hunting Dogs also known as Wild Dogs are facing extinction with there probably being no more than 3000 left on the continent. There are in fact less dogs left in Africa than rhino which is a sobering thought to say the least. There are only four countries left in Africa recognised as having stronghold populations namely Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Botswana and South Africa, making research on the species here a priority. The PHDRP, though based in Hwange, is collecting data for the whole of Zimbabwe on the National Painted Hunting Dog pack and is a conservation orientated project linking field research and education. This project is now a country wide project approved by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management. Research
On the field research side of the project, particular attention is given to monitoring those packs that are most vulnerable and where possible taking action to reduce mortalities attributable to anthropogenic causes such as cars, snares and shooting by ranchers. This entails being in the field and living in the vehicle for weeks at a time whilst we follow packs and collect data such as : disease (from blood, skin and faecal samples), hunting success, daily movements, predator/prey interactions. Also being built up is an identity file on each individual dog in Zimbabwe, a mammoth but worthwhile task.
The PHDRP also works in conjunction with other Zimbabwean research institutions notably the Veterinary Research Laboratories in Harare (collaborating on disease data), as well as the Natural History Museum in Bulawayo. Problems for dog populations are identified and solutions are formulated based on the work done in the field research. For example the ‘Slow Down – Dog Crossing’ road signs which have been erected by this project to help decrease the senseless death of Painted Dogs caused by careless and speeding drivers. The Project had established the ‘black-spots’ where signs should be placed. The anti-snare collars which have already saved the life of one dog; and retroreflective coloured collars which are picked up by car headlights were designed and made by the Project.
Integrated into the research/conservation programme is education at all levels. Children’s awareness is of primary concern and covers all aspects of Painted Hunting Dogs with the accent on the importance of the species as well as its possible extinction. This is done with slide shows and talks at schools all over the country, visits to Conservation Clubs, radio and television. As well as these face-to-face promotions this project has produced a Children’s Booklet. This booklet which will be printed by a variety of Sponsors is given free to all schools Zimbabwe-wide.
To increase adult awareness of the plight of the Painted Hunted Dogs talks, together with slide shows are held frequently in towns and ranching areas around Zimbabwe and are supplemented with articles in newspapers and magazines as well as regular interviews on various radio stations in Harare and Bulawayo. This awareness campaign has not only however been confined to Zimbabwe, but has also resulted in four hour long documentary being produced forinternational television.
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