VOLUNTEER TRIP SOUTH AFRICA
Mkuze Game Reserve
Tuesday, 17th January 2017, 4 AM
The weather was quite miserable, cold, wet and the wind was blowing heavily. Mission of the day? Locating the dogs.
On our way to find them, we came across a couple of jackals, sly animals. We managed to locate 2 of the dogs and went back to camp. Nothing really of excitement going on, apart from Barry almost falling of the roof of the truck due to the heavy wind.
What is ‘hoo’-calling? When a member of the pack is looking for the other members, they make a ‘hoo’ sound. It’s a very unique sound. So when the entire pack escaped a couple of weeks ago, they managed to dart the Alpha female and 5 other dogs and put them in the Boma. The Boma, is an enclosed area, where animals are kept who are likely to escape, so they can gather them all together before putting them on transport to a more suitable location. It’s heavily fenced, with electrical current over different layers. It’s not a cage in the traditional sense, but it is a cage to them as they don’t have 400 km² to roam about. And even 40.000 ha isn’t a large area for them. So, when they put the dominant female there, she started ‘hoo’-calling for her mate and they recorded her sound. This is now replayed to lure them back in the reserve.
When they found out I’ve got also knowledge about positive reinforcement with domesticated dogs, they were asking my opinion. They’re actually ticking a lot of the boxes, I just thought they could try to implement a bit more rewards to reinforce the lure back in the reserve. We are dealing with wild animals, so it will be interesting to see how they react when we find them.
In the afternoon, the reserve manager, Edward, came out with us, with a rifle. He said they were going to shoot an impala as bait and if anyone had a problem with that. I do, big time! I can see the bigger picture and I do understand, that Wild Dogs won’t be tempted with dog biscuits, but with a nice juicy impala. I know it’s part of conservation work, but I don’t have to like it.
On the quest to shoot an impala, we found a few, but thank goodness they all ran away. I’m sure he was looking for a clean shot, and I was grateful for that. He kept apologising that he had to do it. I guess someone has to do the ugly thing. So, after 1,5 hours all impalas were still alive and we went with empty hands, and me with a happy heart, to look for the dogs.
An hour drive, and 2 properties further, we got a signal. When I say property, this is not your standard 1000 m² plot, these are massive landowners, mostly owned by different companies and owners. The owner of the private game reserve, saw the dogs near his northern fence in the morning, so we went for a nice drive through his property and got good tracking signals on the dogs. Only 2 of the 15 dogs are collared, and the rest stays with them. We find them, we find the rest. We ended up returning to camp around 21.00 without any dog sighting, however we saw a white rhino crossing the road.
Back in Mkuze, almost back at camp, a herd of impalas was grazing at the side of the road, and unfortunately I had to witness the killing of a beautiful male. It really upset me, tears just kept coming. Eduard kept again apologising, but this is life, kill one to save 15.
Let’s see what tomorrow will bring.