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Becci Crowe Returns from Painted Dog Conservation Campaign in Zimbabwe
Painted Dogs, also known as African Wild Dogs, are an endangered species. They once roamed throughout much of the African continent but today there is estimated to be only 3,000-5,000 surviving in increasingly fragmented pockets of habitat in Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and South Africa. Persecution, poaching, and road kills have historically been the greatest challenges to their survival. But as lodges and tourism spreads a new challenge now exists - people finding and visiting their den sites to see pups.

Becci Crowe recently joined Dr. Greg Rasmussen, Founder of Painted Dog Conservation, in Zimbabwe to track and monitor den sites. A disturbing amount of human traffic was witnessed at dens with little regard for the safety or well being of the pups. Painted Dog packs are nomadic most of the year. During birthing season, which can be from May-August the packs stay at a den site until the pups are strong enough to travel.

Becci witnessed one particular pack with 7 pups who were so overwhelmed by human presence that the pack felt compelled to move their pups to another location. 5 of the 7 pups died as a result of being moved prematurely. How can you secure survival of an endangered species if the pups aren't protected at the den where they are most vulnerable?

Most of these people were well meaning, not realizing their presence was a threat. Some were guides who wanted their clients to see the pups. Knowing something needed to be done to raise awareness, Becci helped Dr. Rasmussen launch a den disturbance campaign at Mana Pools National Park.

Guidelines were established based on Dr. Rasmussen's research. Informational cards were distributed to park staff, lodges, and campsites along with Painted Dog Guardian buttons encouraging people to be responsible wildlife viewers. If you see a Painted Dog den or Painted Dog pups while on safari, stay at least 150 meters (about a football field) away.

Becci described this initial campaign as being generally well received but the impact of human presence needs to continue to be reinforced and will become an annual event that will expand into other areas of Zimbabwe and the remaining habitat of Painted Dogs in Africa.


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