The Herald (Harare)
THE 16 endangered wild dogs (lycaon pictus) donated to Zimbabwe by the South African National Parks were yesterday released into the Hwange National Park after five months of rehabilitation.
Environment and Tourism Minister Cde Francis Nhema received the dogs in June this year.
The dogs, which were being kept at the Painted Dog Conservation Project's rehabilitation centre outside the park, were translocated from Pilansburg in South Africa by Painted Dog Conservation and Netherlands-based African Wild Dog SOS Fund, headed by Dr George In der Maur.
"It is the first time we have translocated wild dogs and it has been very successful. It's an emotional moment for me," said Dr In der Maur after the wild dogs also known as painted hunting dogs had been let out to roam free in the park, "This is something we have worked for over one and a half years to achieve."
The 16 dogs will join an estimated 700 others currently forming the world's largest remaining population in Zimbabwe's national parks and conservancies.
This figure has been attributed to Zimbabwe's tight conservation policies.
Zimbabwe is the only country in the world that officially protects wild dogs and there have been prosecutions over the illegal killing of wild dogs.
"We wish other African governments could follow the example set by Zimbabwe in its stance over the protection of endangered species," Dr In nder Maur said,
He said the dogs would not have made it in the wild if they had stayed in South Africa, where they have no official protection outside national parks.
A number of wild dogs are reported to have been killed by farmers in South Africa.
"The Zimbabwe Government's attitude and policy towards wild dogs is very positive and encouraging," said Dr In der Maur.
He said his organisation would assist any group involved in efforts to save wild dogs from extinction.
Illegal trade in wild dogs is reported to have been going on between Zimbabwe and South Africa.
A number of wild dogs were dug out of their dens in Zimbabwe and sold in South Africa at R6 000 each, before being resold to zoos around the world.
In Zimbabwe, Painted Dog Conservation has been working to preserve the dogs for more than 18 years, conducting environmental awareness campaigns in communities surrounding Hwange National Park.
Efforts are currently being made to secure an Appendix 1 rating for wild dogs under CITES.
"It's not possible to get communities to tolerate wild dogs without a comprehensive conservation awareness programme," said Mr Gregory Rasmussen, head of the Painted Dog Research Project.
Painted Dog Conservation has been engaged in a campaign to save wild dogs from extinction for more than 15 years and has managed to increase the country's wild dog population from 300 to over 700. There are at least 15 packs of wild dogs in Hwange.