I first came across Painted Dogs (aka ‘Wild Dogs’ or ‘Cape Hunting Dogs’) on my very first trip to Africa. I was on a week long trip to the Okavango Delta in Botswana on a self-drive safari trip for the Holiday program. We were driving along a track through the bush when a small antelope crashed through the bushes and sped across the front of our vehicle. Our guide told us to stop and kill the engine as something was obviously chasing this creature. Barely a few seconds later 10-15 dogs emerged from the bushes and whipped across the track in front and behind us.
I was immediately struck by their fantastic coat colours and their skinny, loose-limbed appearance with large powerful heads and almost comical ears. However, the most impressive thing about this fleeting encounter was it was completely silent.
Painted dogs are one of the most amazing social predators in Africa and are barely hanging on in the limited ranges they have left. Persecuted as pests they still present a big challenge for conservationists.
Based in Zimbabwe, PDC, has proved that conservation can be sustainable and compassionate to local people. The charity is totally integrated in the community, providing services to the children and families, whilst promoting the importance of the indigenous wildlife.
One of the biggest threats to the dogs is illegal snares that result in horrendous injuries. By collaring the dogs it makes it possible to follow them, but also protect them from these potentially lethal wounds.
PDC remove huge numbers of snares from the environment and train local people to turn the wire into impressive sculptures that are sold worldwide. This is a great example of the charity protecting wildlife and creating alternative income streams for the local people.
Another vital part of the program is the educational aspect. The charity runs free four day residential ‘Bush Camps’ where local school children get to see their own native wildlife for the first time and get to learn about the importance of environmental issues such as conservation.
This is something you can help with. PDC is always looking for schools in the UK to get involved with fundraising for the bush camp project and it is possible for UK schools to travel to the project in Zimbabwe and take part in a bush camp of their own. You would love it!
Alternatively, PDC occasionally has opportunities for volunteers with certain skill sets to visit the project and get some hands-on experience. See their website for contact details. Otherwise you may like to volunteer some of your time here in the UK raising funds and awareness. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org