The wild dog is the most endangered carnivore in South Africa. The loss of a single dog is one too many for wild dog researcher, Grant Beverley, of Hoedspruit, and that is why he has been working tirelessly, especially with a new wild dog project since May 2016, for the welfare of this beloved species. He is the Lowveld regional co-ordinator for the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Carnivore Conservation Programme (CCP).

Last year, SANParks Veterinary Wildlife Services, the SANParks Honorary Rangers, the state veterinary services and the Endangered Wildlife Trust mobilised their teams to prevent any further occurrences of canine distemper after a pack known as the Lower Sabie pack was killed by distemper. This was the first recorded case killing wild dogs in the Kruger National Park. Since wild dogs are highly sociable animals, an entire pack can rapidly be infected should one animal contract the disease.

In a bid to further prevent any outbreaks, teams set out to vaccinate core members of wild dog packs against the disease. “Vaccinating wild dogs is challenging,” says Beverley, who has been conducting a disease survey and immunisation project among the wild dogs since then. He darted and took blood samples of 45 dogs from 13 different packs south of the Elephants River. One of the dogs in each pack was also fitted with a satellite collar. The vastness of the area has been a challenge to Beverley and his team. A single pack of wild dogs can cover 6 000km in a straight line, according to Beverley.

The Kruger wild dog population currently stands at approximately 250. The South African population is at 450–500. Other threats to the wild dog population include competition with other predators, being hit by cars and snares – currently one of the greatest human-induced threats to wild dogs.

Visitors to the Kruger National Park can report sightings of any wild dogs – including details of time, date, location, number of individuals, with photographs and any behavioural traits observed – to Grant Beverly at grantb@ewt.org.za. – Lowvelder

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