|Fighting poverty with a painted dog|
|Wednesday, 09 May 2012 00:00|
Isdore Guvamombe Features Editor
beckon. Driven by the ancient rhythm of life to survive, each brain pre-occupies itself with family food security.
More often than not, the thatch is dark brown with age, the weather and soot from fires forever lit inside.
The tarred highway from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls twists like a serpent, demarcating the communal lands to the east and Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe’s perfect theatre of the jungle, to the west.
On close inspection, each animal has its own unique coat pattern, and all have big, round ears.
This is a tale of two places.
Livestock in the form of cattle, goats and chicken are a symbol of wealth, but due to proximity with the wilderness, each death at the hands of a predator has been erroneously attributed to the painted dog, yet it could have been a hyena or lion.
leaving the dog on the brink of extinction.
Today Zimbabwe remains with slightly more than 750 dogs and the world has a few thousands left, courtesy of the shoot and kill mentality.
As the African wild dog, also called Cape hunting dog or painted dog, mhumhi in Shona and iganyane in Ndebele, typically roams the open plains and sparse woodlands of vast swathes of land in Matabeleland North, and so do roam a multifarious array of the community development projects that have flowed to the adjacent communal lands. The projects are going measure for measure with the poverty that has haunted the villagers since time immemorial.
The Painted Dog Conservancy, located a spitting distance from the main entrance to Hwange National Park, was formed more than a decade ago, specifically to protect the wild dog. It has struck a striking balance between conservation and community development to an extent that the project has cemented the community together.
Through its contacts in the form of volunteers, the conservancy has brought to the community HIV and Aids-combating projects and to date more than 1 500 people have been introduced to anti-retroviral therapy. One shudders to think where they would have been now, had it not been for the painted dog?
Several boreholes have been drilled in communities and to them are tied communal gardens where villagers share gardens with schools.
The painted dog has also sponsored the establishment of the Iganyane Arts and Crafts Centre at Dete, where 30 villagers mainly use recovered wire snares to make artefacts which are bought by the conservancy in total to ensure that they get cash and deter them from poaching.
Without the desire to conserve the painted dog, this whole community would be doomed and taking a different direction. Hail the painted dog!
These long-legged canines have only four toes per foot, unlike other dogs, which have five toes on their forelegs.
These dogs are very social, and packs have been known to share food and to assist weak or ill members. Social interactions are common, and the dogs communicate by touch, actions, and vocalisations.
Packs hunt antelopes and will also tackle much larger prey such as wildebeests, particularly if their quarry is ill or injured. The dogs supplement their diet with rodents and birds.
As human settlements expand, the dogs have sometimes developed a taste for livestock, though significant damage is rare. Unfortunately, they are often hunted and killed by farmers who fear for their livestock.
They are also quite susceptible to diseases spread by domestic animals.