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Why save a wild dog?

1 min read

Updated 01 February 2020

Picture of Chris McIntyre

By Chris McIntyre

Managing Director

*A version of this article originally appeared in the February 2020 Bush Telegraph newsletter. You can read our recent newsletters and sign-up to receive these in your inbox on our Bush Telegraph newsletter page.

As we enter a new decade, we’ve been reflecting on how the safari sector has flourished since our founding over 25 years ago, as well as on some of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

In southern and eastern Africa, extreme weather events such as drought and floods like those we are currently seeing in Namibia and Kenya have become more prevalent, while pressure on wildlife through habitat loss and poaching is as present as ever. On a global scale, the huge growth in tourism has brought numerous opportunities, but too often this has come at a cost.

Thankfully, the safari sector is at the forefront of sustainable tourism. It has evolved from trophy hunting a century ago to today, where it collectively protects vast expanses of vital wilderness, conserving countless species great and small, often while working closely with NGOs. The human element is also vital, providing local people in remote areas with employment, income and education. The benefit of connecting people from around the globe is hard to quantify.

We are well aware of the inherent contradictions in everyone needing to cut greenhouse gas emissions whilst we continue to promote holidays with flights. But we also know that for Africa operators like Expert Africa, stopping flying isn’t sustainable either, as Africa’s parks and peoples need tourism. Put simply, a well-planned safari helps make wild places worth keeping that way, with all the wider benefits healthy ecosystems and local development bring.

So, we encourage you to keep travelling to Africa, but with purpose and a positive impact. We’ll continue to work with the most forward-thinking camps and lodges on the continent – businesses that put back into the areas they operate – and commit to minimise our footprint as a company.

The Serengeti wildebeest migration explained

No matter how many times one visits Africa, whether for a first safari or seventh, the great spectacle of the wildebeest migration in Tanzania and Kenya is always breathtaking. Watching columns numbering in the thousands thunder their way around the Serengeti and Mara ecosystems, braving river crossings en masse or in a mega-herd spread out as far as the eye can see across the plains, it’s one of the most iconic scenes in the natural world and, for many, a must-do safari experience.

When and where to go to have the best chances of being in the thick of it are two of the most frequently asked questions we get here. And while it isn’t an exact science, the movement varying each year and depending on rainfall, it is broadly predictable. So, we created the following video to explain the annual migration a little better.

Of course, nothing beats speaking to an expert, so if you’d like to find out more about planning a migration safari, get in touch with one of our East Africa team.

An electric safari

When it comes to making travel in Africa really sustainable, a small outfit in Zambia has quietly been pushing the envelope.

Appropriately named Green Safaris have sustainability and community development at their core. They are pioneering the concept of a ‘silent’ safari, using electrically powered game drive vehicles, e-boats, e-bikes and e-quads, alongside a focus on walking. Removing the noise, vibration and smell of a traditional engine means a more immersive experience that’s less disturbing to wildlife and provides a better photography platform. All charged by solar panels, they are carbon neutral too.

A ‘nest’ room at Chisa Busanga

The view from bed

This year, Green Safaris are opening two exciting new camps. The first, Chisa Busanga, is an intimate camp of four weaver-bird inspired ‘nests’ that will stand on an island in the north of Zambia’s Kafue National Park. Overlooking the Busanga Plains’ vast floodplains and dambo wetlands, this a rich and varied spot for safari.

The second, Shawa Luangwa Camp, is named after celebrated guide Jacob Shawa and will comprise of five minimal-footprint A-frame tents set along the Luangwa River. In a spot handpicked by Jacob south of the Nsefu sector of the park, you can expect the wildlife to be prolific, even by the South Luangwa’s high standards. Both camps are due to open in June and we are looking forward to trying out a silent safari in the near future.

Why save a wild dog?

The impact of a single piece of wire can be devastating to a whole ecosystem. Across Africa, predators are often caught in simple snare traps set illegally by poachers after small game, dying or suffering significant wounds as a result.

For the Zambian Carnivore Programme, working in collaboration with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, detecting snared wildlife through their monitoring work and releasing animals that get trapped is a key activity that has seen extraordinary results. Wild dogs are among Africa’s most endangered carnivores. Wide-ranging and highly sociable, they are particularly vulnerable to snares; with a minimum viable pack size of five adults to raise pups, the loss of an individual can mean the loss of the pack. And they were struggling in the South Luangwa.

For an exceptional example of what a difference one snare can make, take an individual alpha male designated ‘Wild dog 73’, rescued from a snare by ZCP team members in 2014. He went on to be the father, grandfather, and great grandfather of some 160 pups, dying at a ripe old age of natural causes. His legacy has led to another dozen packs, sparking a resurgence of the species around the park.

Photo by Edward Selfe

In the same year, one of 73’s sons, 635, was also saved from a snare that was tied around his jaw. Able to reach maturity he headed off on his own, as male dogs do, and wasn’t seen again. That was until last August when 635 reappeared as the alpha of a new 16-strong pack, soon denning to raise another four pups.

Pups from 635’s ‘Baobab’ pack

The South Luangwa is now home to Zambia’s largest wild dog population and it is one of the best places to see them in Africa – 42% of our travellers have recorded sightings since April 2018. And with just an estimated 1400 adult wild dogs left in the whole of Africa, saving individuals has had enormous repercussions. But there is still work to be done to ensure the long term survival of this incredible predator. The camps and lodges we send travellers to in the South Luangwa all support the ZCP. You can find out more about their vital work by clicking here.

If you’ve been inspired and want to find out more, give us a call or enquire now to speak to an expert.

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