Lowveld Wild Dog Project

Endangered African wild dogs are the flagship species of our work and organisation, and a priority species for conservation. With their unique and striking appearance, their intelligence and their highly interactive and caring nature, wild dogs are truly one of the most unique species alive today. However, listed as Africa’s second most endangered large carnivore, they are in desperate need of our help and protection.

All of the current efforts of the AWCF stemmed from the Lowveld Wild Dog Project; a research project that was established in 1996 to study a very small and fragile African wild dog population in Savé Valley Conservancy. Our scope has since expanded, and today we monitor, research and conserve resident wild dog populations in not only the Savé Valley Conservancy, but in Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park too.

Notably, the populations of wild dogs in both Savé Valley Conservancy and Gonarezhou National Park have remained stable or increasing over the last five years at least, and today are reaching near ecological capacity. We monitor healthy populations of 90-120 adult wild dogs in each protected area (across c.28 packs in total), occurring at densities higher than (in Savé Valley Conservancy) and equal to (in Gonarezhou National Park) wild dog densities in other wildlife areas of comparable size.

View Map

Ten percent of the remaining global wild dog population occurs within the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area, of which our study area (south-east lowveld of Zimbabwe) forms a significant part.

Further, throughout Africa there are few stronghold populations of wild dogs left and even fewer where population growth is stable or increasing. Given the location of our study area and our healthy densities of wild dogs, there is significant potential for our wild dogs to act as source populations for wildlife areas within recoverable range for the species.

As such, the wild dog populations in Savé Valley Conservancy and Gonarezhou National Park are incredibly important to protect and safeguard, for both the local and global conservation of the species. AWCF works tirelessly to address the major and immediate threats to wild dogs in our study area; including, habitat loss, human persecution, disease (especially rabies), accidental by-catch in wire snares set for bushmeat, loss of prey and competition with larger carnivores like lions.

About African Wild Dogs

AWCF works tirelessly to mitigate the major threats to wild dogs in their study area and secure safe and viable habitat for all wildlife through management-oriented research, hands-on conservation and community education and outreach. This is achieved through the following:

  • Safeguarding wild dog populations for conservation management; including collaring and monitoring (population trends, dispersal events, causes of adult and pup mortality) of wild dog packs using traditional spoor tracking, radio telemetry, camera traps at dens and photographic identikits for all known wild dogs and packs.
  • Assessing the genetic health and connectivity of the lowveld wild dog population.
  • Monitoring trans-boundary movements and anthropogenic impacts on wild dogs, and following up wild dogs moving beyond the boundaries of protected areas.
  • Investigating the impact of competitive predators (lions and hyenas) on wild dogs.
  • Reducing the threat from rabies by organising rabies vaccination campaigns in domestic dog populations surrounding the wildlife areas.
  • Removing snares from wild dogs (and other wildlife) and treating subsequent wounds.
  • Supporting anti-poaching efforts to mitigate the threat from snaring as a cause of wild dog decline, and assisting anti-poaching efforts to remove wire snares from key wild dog home ranges and den site areas.
  • Working with schools and communities surrounding the wildlife areas to increase conservation awareness, improve education standards and opportunities for neighbouring communities, and promote human-wildlife co-existence.
Wild Dog Photos

AWCF works closely with the managers and owners of Savé Valley Conservancy, and with our collaborating partners in Gonarezhou National Park to produce meaningful conservation outcomes for wild dogs in our study area. Realising the importance of cross-boundary, large-scale initiatives for the conservation of wide-ranging carnivores, we are also highly active at the regional and international level.

View map of global Wild Dog distribution

How you can help

If you would like to support any aspect of this important work, please contact us or make a safe and secure donation