01 Mar Wild Dogs
There has been much excitement at Lindani this past month. A pack of eleven, mostly young Wild Dogs has been visiting us on a regular basis. They joined up with the mature male that has been resident here for almost six months. What has been strange is that they seem completely habituated to motor vehicles and allowed us and guests to get very close to them.
The Waterberg is the only area in South Africa where Wild Dogs exist outside a national park. In our twenty odd years at Lindani, dogs have passed through on a number of occasions, sometimes as few as three and on one occasion a pack of fifteen. They never stayed for more than a few days at the most and would then be seen again 100kms away – which explains why they came to be known as the ghosts of the Waterberg. This pack by contrast has stayed in the area for a much longer period, possibly because they are young.
We are all confused as to where this pack originates. This appears to be the first time they have been seen.
On the one hand we have been excited but on the other hand are very concerned about their future. We have suffered quite a few losses and so have other farmers in the area. Inevitably a number of farmers have threatened to shoot them which would be an enormous tragedy – it is also a criminal offence.
The experience has highlighted for us the tension between game farming as part of conservation and game farming as another branch of livestock farming. An essential part of national conservation strategy has been the acceptance by the state that private persons can own wildlife. Two major industries have been built on this, namely tourism and hunting. Both of these benefit conservation and in turn are the beneficiaries of conservation. The corollary of this is that conservation cannot succeed unless predators are seen as an essential component in the conservation equation.
Game farmers who see their activity as being another branch of livestock production and not part of conservation and, as a result, are prepared to exterminate predators, whether they are wild dogs, leopards, caracal, jackals, brown hyena or pythons, are in effect undermining our national conservation strategy.
We are very worried about the future of this very beautiful and trusting pack and are giving all our support to the Endangered Wildlife Trust – they are working on a strategy to give the dogs a chance by coming a magnet to attract tourists to the Waterberg and at the same time generate funds for farmers on whose properties they make kills.
It is a long shot chance. For the sake of future generations, let us hope.