Painted Dog Conservation
Painted Dog Conservation
The Painted Dog Conservation (PDC) project’s mission is to protect and increase the range and numbers of the highly endangered Painted Dog (Lycaon Pictus) in Zimbabwe using a conservation model built on education, community involvement and international support.
The painted dog is the most endangered carnivore in the world, with approximately 5,000 existing in the wild and one sixth of this population in Zimbabwe. They are also the most social member of the dog family and are one of the few mammals that take care of its old, sick and disabled. During the early years of PDC’s life, human-induced carnage accounted for 95% of all painted dog mortalities and public presentations showed prejudice and ignorance towards the dog’s plight. It was clear that unless this situation was addressed, the species could become extinct.
Initially, much work was done with commercial farmers to create a “ceasefire” while the project developed a method of catching and removing perceived problem packs from the farmlands. PDC designed anti-snare radio collars, which provide the dogs with some protection if caught in a snare, and erected road signs to warn motorists of the dogs’ presence. During this same period, the project successfully lobbied the authorities to have the painted dogs placed in the ‘Specially Protected’ category of the Parks and Wildlife Act. PDC established an 18 man anti-poaching unit (APU), which has collected over 10,000 snares since inception. A rehabilitation facility designed to cope with an injured individual or an entire pack was constructed using Tusk funding.
Iganyana Children’s Bush Camp
As with many of Tusk’s projects, PDC understands that education holds the key to long-term changes and so in 2004, once more with Tusk backing, the project opened the “Iganyana Children’s Bush Camp”. Here, a world-class, extended experiential education programme has been designed, with a philosophy aimed at effecting healthy developments in the perspectives, attitudes and feelings of the students towards the environment. There are 19 primary schools in the immediate catchment area, bordering Hwange National Park, that have been targeted for the Free of Charge programme. In addition to the Free of Charge programme, PDC welcomes other schools to come to the Bush Camp on a paying basis. The amount charged not only covers their camp but also contributes toward the Free of Charge programme, which is exclusively for local rural schools that cannot afford to pay.
While education undoubtedly holds the key to long-term change, the political and economic situation in Zimbabwe has serious effects on the day-to-day lives of the communities bordering the park. You cannot teach conservation to people who are hungry. In conjunction with the education centre, PDC has developed a Community Development Project that employs men, women and children from the immediate area (a region that suffers from over 90% unemployment) to utilise the snare wires that are collected by the APU teams to create crafts that are sold worldwide. This project is backed up by a programme to establish “nutritional gardens” in the surrounding villages, which provide food security and teach sustainable utilization of natural resources.
As a direct result of these achievements, the painted dog population in Zimbabwe has grown from 350 to 750 individuals, a feat which has not been achieved in any other country during a similar period. Today, PDC has evolved into a multi-faceted conservation organisation, which is regarded by many as a “Model for Conservation”. Tusk has been at the heart of this evolution. Providing essential funding for over ten years, Tusk remains one of the organisations most significant supporters.
Tusk has been a supporter of both the anti-poaching work of the Trust and has been a major donor to the construction and operation of the education centre. We aim to provide an annual to allow PDC to conduct their free of charge bush education programme for school groups living on the border of Hwange National Park.
Painted Dog Conservation is without question changing peoples' attitudes, hearts and minds. Our commitment to the area in terms of employment and educational opportunities is recognized and deeply appreciated.