October 2014 – Wilderness Safaris is delighted to announce a record-breaking wild dog denning season in its concessions in Botswana. With at least eight confirmed denning sites this year, the breeding packs produced an impressive 71 pups. This is a notable increase compared with previous years, when on average, four packs denned within the same concessions.
“We are privileged to work in some of the most pristine wilderness places on the planet, and we take our responsibility to enhance and conserve these areas very seriously”, says Kai Collins, Group Conservation Manager. “This year’s exceptional denning season confirms the essential role that Wilderness Safaris, and indeed ecotourism in general, plays in protecting wild dog and other Endangered and Vulnerable species.”
This year, at least three wild dog packs denned within the Linyanti Concession, producing 31 pups, while the remaining packs denned in Wilderness Safaris’ concessions in the Okavango Delta. Currently, northern Botswana and surrounding areas (including Hwange in Zimbabwe and Kafue in Zambia) are home to some of the largest and most important African wild dog populations. The species used to be found throughout Africa, but today, they are classified as Endangered by the IUCN, with only about 1 400 mature individuals remaining. This huge decline is largely due to habitat loss, as well as human-wildlife conflict and infectious disease.
Wild dog show a high degree of parental care. During the winter months, they search out a den site where they will birth the pups. During this time, Wilderness Safaris enforces a “sensitive sightings protocol” and will not visit the actual den until the puppies are at least two months old. The risk of visiting too early is that the dogs may feel threatened and opt to move the puppies, potentially making them vulnerable to large predators. However, the adults in the pack drastically reduce their home range during this time (from about 400 km down to just 60 km), which results in regular quality sightings of the pack.
“Now that the pups are old enough to leave their dens, guests have witnessed incredible interactions between the adults and their young as they go about their daily activities – playing, hunting and feeding,” says Collins. “We will continue to monitor all the packs within our concessions in close collaboration with Botswana’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks. While the mortality rate for wild dog pups is quite high, we are thrilled that many have survived and continue to thrive as they explore their natural environment”.