The death of ‘Washy’ a cherished painted dog in Zimbabwe triggers revival of emergency help lines.

-The carcass bore a snare wound, serving as a grim reminder of the persistent threats posed by humans who set up snares in the area.

John Cassim

The tragic death of Washy, a cherished member of the Mpindothela Pack of painted dogs, in Mabale, Hwange, recently underscored the vital role of community vigilance in safeguarding endangered species, highlighting the need for increased awareness and action.

Ernest Tshuma, a local cattle herder, came across the distressing sight of Washy’s lifeless body in Mabale, Hwange, where the painted dog was last sighted in November 2023.

The carcass bore a snare wound, serving as a grim reminder of the persistent threats posed by these majestic creatures to the issue of snaring in the area.

Tshuma’s prompt response not only highlighted the immediate need for action but also initiated a series of positive events, showcasing the impact of swift intervention.

Upon hearing the news, Sphiwe Moyo, a community volunteer for painted dogs, instinctively dialled the toll-free line, showcasing the effectiveness of prior training and awareness campaigns.

This quick action initiated a response through the toll-free hotline, alerting the Painted Dog Conservation (PDC) Anti-Poaching Unit, which swiftly arrived at the scene to verify the heartbreaking incident.

Painted Dog Conservation (PDC) is a private voluntary organisation known for its successful collaborations with community-based volunteers living near Hwange National Park, leading to significant strides in wildlife conservation.

Volunteers are recruited from Mabale, Dopota, and Nabushome villages, demonstrating the widespread community engagement in conservation efforts.

Upon encountering the painted dog, Tshuma shared, “I knew I had to report it promptly. Painted Dogs are legally protected.”

Enoch Zulu, the Manager of the PDC Anti-Poaching Unit, stressed the significance of community engagement.

He emphasised, “The volunteers and the community are crucial. Without their support, our task would be considerably more challenging.”

While Washy’s loss is mourned, it highlights the unyielding dedication of the Mabale community.

Their prompt reporting not only aided in documenting the incident but also played a crucial role in maintaining precise records on wild dog populations, essential for effective conservation strategies.

This resilience serves as a powerful driver in the ongoing conservation efforts.

Constance Sibelo, a senior anti-poaching security officer with the Forestry Commission, emphasised the significant impact of toll-free lines in reducing response time to wildlife crimes, citing a 30% increase in successful interventions since their implementation, highlighting the tangible benefits of this communication channel.

“They expedite communication in reporting human-wildlife conflict incidents, ensuring a rapid response,” she emphasised.

In 2006, an alpha male in Hwange’s last pack was killed, and the group dispersed. The alpha female was brought into a new rehabilitation enclosure. and for six months, Hwange had no painted dogs in the wild.

The female was later released, and a male alpha was also chosen from the enclosure. 

In the years that followed, the female dog raised as many as 30 puppies and roamed about 1600 square kilometres. 

Painted dogs, also known as African Wild Dogs (Lycaon pictus), are the largest canids in Africa and the second largest in the world after wolves. 

In the past, at least 500,000 painted dogs roamed the African continent’s wild lands; however, currently, approximately 6,600 wild dogs are left in the wild. 

These endangered species are listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species owing to the diminishing population caused by human activities like the setting up of snares and habitat loss due to climate change. 

Painted Dog Conservation (PDC) urges the community to persist in using the toll-free line to report wildlife crimes and sightings of painted dogs, emphasising the continuous need for community involvement.

The public can reach out to the PDC via the toll-free line at 08080097.

Credit: This article was originally published by Community Podium, and has been re-published with consent.

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