WILD DOGS REINTRODUCED TO MALAWI AFTER DECADES OF ABSENCE

On 27 July 2021, 14 African Wild Dogs were translocated successfully from South Africa and Mozambique to Liwonde National Park and Majete Wildlife Reserve in a historic project to reintroduce this Endangered species to Malawi. The translocation was undertaken through a collaboration between the Endangered Wildlife Trust [EWT] and African Parks, which manages Liwonde and Majete protected areas in partnership with Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW). While helping to repopulate both parks, the reintroduction represents a major international effort to conserve African Wild Dogs, with only 6,600 individuals, or just 700 breeding pairs, estimated to be left on the continent.

“The Wild Dog is one of Africa’s most Endangered mammals, so we’re extremely proud to have been able to establish safe spaces in Malawi where their long-term survival can be assured”, said the Director of Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Brighton Kumchedwa. “The conservation of our country’s natural heritage is central to our· national development strategy. Over the past two decades, our collaboration with African Parks and local communities has helped to restore multiple iconic species to our protected areas, contributing not only to meeting global biodiversity targets but to sustainable economic growth”.

The African Wild Dogs were sourced from Gorongosa National Park and Karingani Game Reserve in Mozambique, and Somkhanda Community Game Reserve and Maremani Nature Reserve in South Africa. On 27 July, all 14 animals were flown in a single aircraft from Mozambique’s Massingir Airport to Blantyre in Malawi. Eight dogs were released into bomas in Liwonde National Park and six into bomas in Majete Wildlife Reserve, where they will remain for several weeks, allowing them to adjust to the new conditions before being fully released into the wider park areas. Each pack has been fitted with a mix of satellite and radio collars to facilitate the continual monitoring of their location and habitat use and ensure their long-term protection in the parks.

Wild Dog from Karingani Game Reserve (photo credit: Jo Taylor)

The dogs

The Liwonde National Park (Malawi) females were born in Somkhanda Community Game Reserve, the only community-owned reserve in the Wild Dog Range Expansion Project. Wild Dogs were introduced into the reserve in 2015, and from the reserve’s successes, Somkhanda Community Game Reserve can now contribute back to the Wild Dog range expansion work. In this case, three sisters born in 2019, offspring of the Kalahari females and Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park males, recently showed signs of dispersal, and the collaborative decision was to capture them and bond them to male Wild Dogs and introduce the newly formed pack into Liwonde Game Reserve. Thank you to Somkhanda Game Reserve, Wildlands, Wildlife ACT – Focused Conservation, UmPhafa Private Nature Reserve (Colchester Zoo), and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife for making this possible.

The Liwonde National Park (Malawi) males were born in Maremani Nature Reserve, a beautiful game reserve in the tropical savannah in northern Limpopo, close to the Limpopo River in the northernmost area of South Africa.

The males dispersed from their natal pack and went in search of females. In the space of ten days, the group covered 600 km, which included a stint into Bubye Valley Conservancy (Zimbabwe). Due to their vulnerability to several threats (persecution, snaring, and roadkill), a decision was made to capture the male Wild Dogs, bond with the Zululand females and introduce them into Liwonde National Park. Maremani Nature Reserve has been vital in the success of this Wild Dog population and a champion for the species in the surrounding areas.

The Majete males come from the original pack introduced into Gorongosa National Park in 2018. Gorongosa National Park is Mozambique’s flagship reserve and now boasts a thriving Wild Dog population with more than 100 Wild Dogs now roaming the landscape.

Several months ago, the Gorongosa-born males, having just turned two, dispersed from their natal pack and roamed into the buffer areas outside the park. Dr Antonio Tonecas, the head Gorongosa vet, captured the males and brought them back to safety the safety of the Gorongosa boma. Following the decision to include these males in the Majete Wildlife Reserve reintroduction, the group was relocated by air by the Mozambican veterinarian team and placed in the predator boma at Karingani Game Reserve, where they were bonded with females.

The Majete females were born on Karingani Game Reserve. The Karingani Pack was introduced in 2019 and has thrived in Karingani since. Karingani is situated in the southwest of Mozambique, bordering South Africa’s Kruger National Park. The strong conservation focus and monitoring at Karingani have seen the Wild Dog population double in the past two years.

In addition to this, Karingani has also been working in close partnership with the young organisation, Mozambique wildlife alliance – an emerging Mozambican wildlife veterinary team, mandated by the National Administration of Conservation Areas (ANAC), with high conservation impact across the country.

The Karingani pack found the Gorongosa males only days after they arrived in the Karingani boma. The Karingani team cleverly and skillfully lured the three selected females into the second compartment of the boma, capturing them without the use of anaesthesia. Since these females needed no convincing to choose the Gorongosa males, the bonding in the Karingani boma went very smoothly.

The Majete Males