AfriCat, founded in 1991 on Okonjima Farm in Central Namibia is committed to the long term conservation of Namibia's largest carnivores. Recently, the team at AfriCat received a phone call from the chairperson of the Okamatapati Conservancy (approx. 160 km east of Okonjima) regarding a local farmer who was in possession of nine orphaned wild dog pups. African wild dogs are an endangered species that usually dig their dens and give birth during the dry months of June, July and August. The denning period is the only time of the year when wild dogs return to the same location every day, limiting their mobility which can result in a decreased encounter rate with prey species.
For that reason, wild dogs often den in areas close to a water source that attracts a high density of ungulates during the dry season or near to a predictable food supply.The concerned farmer had apparently suffered a loss of upto six cattle and in his misery, chased the adult pack off his property leaving nine abandoned pups behind. Instead of killing them, which is typically the case, the farmer contacted the conservancy, who assured him that the AfriCat Foundation would assist with the relocation of the pups.
Immediately after receiving the phone call, a team from AfriCat made their way to Okamatapati to collect the orphaned wild dog pups. On arrival, the estimated five week old dogs were slightly hypothermic but otherwise seemed to be healthy and in good condition. The orphans were safely transported to the AfriCat Carnivore Care Centre, arriving at 2am on Monday morning! The pups are currently housed in a semi-open holding facility and have been named after spectacular deserts; Sahara, Atacama, Kalahari, Mojave, Sonoran, Gobi, Karoo, Namib and Thar.
Now, at an estimated 7 – 8 weeks of age, the pups, three females and six males are becoming more active and inquisitive of their surroundings. Due to the fact that wild dogs are extremely prone to a variety of diseases, AfriCat are monitoring their temperatures and weight every 2 – 3 days, in order to catch a possible infection early. At this point in time, AfriCat are focusing on keeping these valuable pups healthy and strong; future plans of rehabilitation and possible release into the 20 000 ha Okonjima Nature Reserve, still need to be evaluated.
Wild dogs have large spatial requirements and occur in low densities. Habitat destruction as well as an expanding human population have led to the fact that wild dogs mainly live in protected areas. Where they are still roaming in unprotected areas, they are actively persecuted. In South Africa, meta-populations of wild dogs are established in geographically isolated reserves, but rely on active management programmes. Whether or not the Okonjima Nature Reserve, with its healthy prey base, can sustain a pack of 11 wild dogs (including the resident Team FIFA’S dogs, Jogi and Robin) or if another suitable release site needs to be found, has still to be assessed.
Since 2005, this is the 5th set of pups rescued by AfriCat after a phone-call from concerned farmers on the four adjacent conservancies, where packs of up to 20 dogs are sighted. Livestock loss is high chiefly due to the fact that their natural prey has been decimated by poaching and present livestock farming practices in Namibia do not offer sufficient protection for stock.
In March 2016, the Ministry of Environment & Tourism’s Carnivore Coordinator, announced the following: ‘The African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus), has finally been up-listed as Specially Protected, under the Wildlife Conservation Ordinance 4 of 1975; this changes the legal status of the African Wild Dog, as it was not protected at all up to date, to the same status as rhino in Namibia.’
In July, AfriCatand members of the Ehirovipuka Conservancy, met with the Okamatapati Conservancy Committee to discuss the way forward regarding Conservancy policies, research and human-wildlife conflict mitigation support programmes. AfriCat will be releasing regular updates on the progress of the pups who now have a brighter future than their parents did.
Outposts Travel Africa can tailor-make any itinerary to Namibia to suit your interests and requirements. We can incorporate a stay at Okonjima so you can see first hand the work of the AfriCat Foundation. There is accommodation to suit all budgets, from a private camp site to real safari lodges, but wherever you stay on Okonjima, you will be guaranteed an African safari to remember!