Conservation enthusiasts have the rare opportunity to book a safari package at Tintswalo Lapalala over the Heritage Day long weekend of 24 September 2020, to join a veterinary team and scientists from the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) while they collar a number of African Wild Dogs (Lycaon pictus) in the Lapalala Wilderness Reserve (Limpopo).
The African Wild Dog is Southern Africa’s most endangered large carnivore, with only about 438 left in all of South Africa. Conservation history was made in April (2020) when 10 adult dogs, notably one of the last free-roaming packs of the Waterberg, were successfully captured and relocated to a holding facility on the Lapalala Reserve. In the reserve they will be safe from pervasive threats such as hunting, poisons, road collisions, snaring and habitat loss, which have over the years reduced the population to near extinction.
The dogs adapted quickly in the boma at Lapalala and within a few weeks a litter of pups was born. The eleven pups are now strong enough to be released into the reserve, together with the 10 adults. The first step however is to raise funds to purchase VHS and satellite tracking collars, which has presented the unique opportunity for guests to not only donate, but physically participate as sponsors of the project.
Derek van der Merwe from the Endangered Wildlife Trust says that it is critically important to safeguard this pack within the Lapalala Wilderness Reserve. The scientific monitoring of the pack will help to secure the future conservation of the species, particularly in the Waterberg. It is essential to keep track of their movement patterns, habitat utilization, and population demographics, and to avoid snaring and poaching incidents and breakouts. He says: ‘This particular pack is very used to going through fences as the Waterberg area in general is full of game fences. However, we are hoping that the time spent in the boma has given them some respect for fences and that they won’t head straight out of the reserve after release.’
Spreading over 48 500 hectares of pristine bushveld, the Lapalala Wilderness Reserve is one of South Africa’s largest private nature reserves and is recognized as a champion of sustainable wildlife conservation. CEO Glenn Phillips says that this Wild Dog conservation project is another important conservation milestone for Lapalala. ‘We are however under no illusions that these dogs will eventually leave the expanse of the reserve and continue to do what they have always done. Roam free. We are very privileged to have been in a position to provide a temporary home for these wonderful, critically endangered animals, and trust that the role we played has provided them the best possible chance of survival.’
Tintswalo Lapalala’s Wild Dog Collaring Conservation package is available to 12 guests only, for the long weekend of 24 September 2020. Children are welcome. Guests will have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take close-up photographs of the Wild Dog adults and pups feeding. They will also attend a briefing session by the veterinary team who will explain the collaring procedure, before they take part in the exercise which aims to collar at least two of the dogs. The release of the dogs into the reserve will take place on a later date (to be confirmed).