We can make a difference, secure painted dog’s future Painted dogs. — Picture: Painted Dog Conservation.

Maita Zizhou-Bulawayo Bureau 

In the process of conserving wildlife, the hardest part is the constant debate we have with ourselves, when we think, did I do enough for the next generation? 

Will they see these wild dogs as I have, free and wild?

This is a constant reminder that we must do all we can to protect and conserve our wildlife. 

We must also ensure that the next generation has a wild and beautiful world to enjoy. We must take action now to ensure the survival of our planet’s wildlife.

The first time I saw a painted dog in the wild was an unforgettable experience, something I always think back to when I see them on a National Geographic show or on Live Safari. 

I was on a safari with a bunch of other 11-year-olds exploring the Hwange National Park sponsored by the Painted Dog Conservation outreach programmes.

 As we drove through the vast savannah, my excitement grew with every passing moment. Suddenly, our guide pointed towards a thicket and whispered, “There they are, amaganyane.”

  I remember zooming my eyes, searching for any signs of movement. 

And then, I saw them – a pack of wild dogs staring straight at our safari vehicle; their vibrant fur standing out amid the golden grass. 

For a few precious moments, I was able to witness these painted dogs in their natural habitat, free and untamed before they turned and disappeared into the bush. 

It was a privilege to be in their presence, and I felt a profound connection to the beauty and diversity of the natural world.

Zimbabwe’s painted dogs, also known as African wild dogs, are a fascinating and unique species that captivates the attention of wildlife enthusiasts and researchers alike.

These beautiful creatures, with their striking coats and intricate social structure, are truly wonders of the wild. 

Painted dogs are native to the grasslands, savannahs, and woodland areas of Zimbabwe, as well as other parts of Africa. They are highly adaptable and can thrive in various habitats, from arid regions to more densely vegetated areas.

Their stunning coat patterns, which resemble an artist’s brush strokes, make them one of the most visually captivating animals in the African wilderness, second only to the zebras in my opinion.

The coat of the painted dog is a true reflection of Africa’s diverse and vibrant landscapes. Its fur is adorned with patches of black, brown, white, and yellow, blending together to create a harmonious and eye-catching pattern.

Much like zebras, no two painted dogs have the same coat, making each one a living testament to the creativity of nature. 

For instance, I have seen some dogs that have black patches that cover their entire heads, while others have a pattern of brown, white, and yellow fur that forms a geometric pattern across their back; they are much like our human fingerprints.

These magnificent animals are highly social and live in tight-knit packs. Each pack is led by an alpha pair, and the rest of the pack members work together to raise their young, hunt for food, and defend their territory.

Their cooperative behaviour and strong family bonds are a testament to the intelligence and adaptability of the painted dog. 

The alpha female of a pack of painted dogs will usually give birth to 10 to 11 pups, which weigh around 310 grams each.

 Painted dogs remind me of lions, they are very family-oriented.

They live in packs, which can consist of up to 20 and exhibit a complex social hierarchy. Painted dogs are highly intelligent and efficient hunters.

They have a hunting success rate of around 80 percent, making them one of the most successful predators in Africa. They possess incredible stamina, often chasing their prey for long distances until their target tires out.

Unfortunately, over the years, Africa has been battling a cancerous pandemic –poaching of the painted dog, rhino, elephants, and lions, with the painted dog population declining rapidly in recent years.

They are threatened by habitat destruction, poaching, and disease.

Conservation efforts are underway to protect the painted dog, but their future remains uncertain. 

Habitat loss, human encroachment, and diseases have posed significant threats to their survival.

The more people settle further in wild territories, the higher the risk of human-wildlife conflict which ends in casualties.

 Painted dogs in Zimbabwe and Africa generally suffer untimely deaths as they come into contact with easy prey that happens to be livestock.

Without urgent conservation efforts, the species could be at risk of extinction.

In Zimbabwe, various organisations and initiatives such as The Painted Dog Conservation in the Hwange National Park are working tirelessly to safeguard the painted dogs’ future.

These efforts include habitat conservation, anti-poaching measures, and education programmes aimed at promoting coexistence between humans and wildlife.

They host surrounding primary school children for at least a week at their camp, raising awareness about the importance of painted dogs and their role in maintaining a balanced ecosystem.

These initiatives are making a significant impact. 

I remember my stay there when I was 11- years-old like it was yesterday. It was such an eye-opener and the first time I saw a wild dog, I had goose bumps and just this feeling of excitement.

That feeling needs to be preserved for the next generation of children to experience. 

My time with the organisation left such an indelible mark, I developed an interest in understanding the challenges that painted dogs face in Zimbabwe.

The conservation of painted dogs cannot be achieved without the involvement of local communities.

By engaging them in conservation initiatives, we empower individuals to become stewards of their natural heritage. Through education and community-led programmes, we can foster a sense of ownership and pride, ensuring a sustainable future for the painted dogs. 

We all have a role to play in the conservation of the painted dog. 

Whether it is supporting local initiatives, spreading awareness through social media, or visiting the Hwange National Park to experience the beauty of these creatures first-hand, every action counts. 

Together, we can make a difference and secure the future of the painted dog.

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