It might be a silly concept but after sitting with Mkhuze Game Reserve‘s pack of African Wild Dogs the other evening, I couldn’t help but wonder what I would ask the Wild Dogs if I had the opportunity to share a question or comment with them. We have just lost a Wild Dog, nicknamed Kurt, to a snare. That same night, the rest of the Wild Dog pack moved in around my vehicle and fell asleep next to me. Each of them passed my window in the hour and a half that I was sitting there. They each stopped and looked up at me and all I wanted to do at that moment was know what was going through their heads. The following day, I asked the conservation volunteers, ‘if you had one question for the Wild Dogs, what would it be’? One of the volunteers said she would ask how they feel about this big white thing with four wheels that follows them around every day. Another conservation volunteer said she would ask for their favourite food preference, while another brought up the topic of the future pups and whether they are looking forward to their birth?
This concept got me thinking. Imagine the breakthroughs we could make if we were allowed one question. How this could possibly benefit us in defending Africa’s Wild Dog population. Or better yet, if we could somehow give the Wild Dogs’ one piece of advice. We could tell where there are potentially high snare areas. We could tell them a good place to den or perhaps tell them how crucial this litter of pups is going to be to the Mkhuze Wild Dog population.
It doesn’t often happen but every now-and-again it’s almost like the Wild Dogs acknowledge who you are and they look at you like they know that we are there to look after them but if we could just sit them down and say to them, ‘’hey guys, there are a lot of people that love and care for you very much, how can we help you more?” I know our alpha male, nicknamed Waters, who is a strong, brave leader would say, ‘back off, I have this under control’. Thandazile, the alpha female, at this stage would probably ask for a stretcher. She is about to give birth any day now and she can’t run for more than 100 meters before she lies down again. Then we have ‘Lihle’ who loves her food. Without fail she will always come and inspect the vehicle to make sure there are no animal carcass lying around. I can assume that she would ask for a ‘meal on wheels’ everyday if she had it her way. With each of the Wild Dogs’ personality traits I can assure you there would be a wide range of different comments.
Although this would be a great barrier to breakthrough, having given it further thought, I wouldn’t have it any other way. These are wild animals that are completely independent and continue to fight the good fight on a daily basis and this is why I have the utmost respect for the Mkhuze pack of Wild Dogs. Sometimes words don’t need to be said to feel the mood or emotions of these Wild Dogs. It’s the humans that care that need to keep defending the wild dogs and all the animals for that matter. Whether it’s the corporate world trying to buy out the natural land and resources, or whether its poachers that are depleting the animal populations for their own well-being, we need to put a stop to this and make the Wild Dogs a promise that we will keep fighting for them whether this could be explained to them or not. We owe it to them to do so and I feel if we can achieve this, then they will be able to do the rest.
The next best thing we can do is to track them on a daily basis and the only way to do this effectively is to put tracking collars on the dogs. Recently, we have had a new batch of tracking collars brought in and every dogs in the Mkhuze pack is going to have a collar. I would like to just thank all the followers for your support in making this possible and allowing us to help team up with the Wild Dogs and keep fighting the good fight!
On a lighter note, I would love comments or questions that you could share with the dogs if given the chance. If nothing else, it makes great conversation and can potentially be hilarious. When out waiting for the Wild Dogs, ones mind can wonder and think up the most bizarre things!
Cole du Plessis | Endangered Wildlife Monitor | Mkhuze Game Reserve