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Huge influxes of cattle during the drought in 2017 meant that many of the African wild dogs in Laikipia were wiped out by canine distemper virus (CDV) spread from the herdsmen’s domestic dogs.

However, after nearly a year of no sightings, staff at the Loisaba Star Beds were excited to hear the unique calls of a pack of wild dogs on Monday! Before hunts, wild dogs often engage in a ‘greeting ceremony’, where many sounds are produced by the dogs including whimpers, whines and high pitched twitters, which are unique and easy to identify.

© Hannah Campbell

The African wild dog (Lycaon pictus), also known as the cape hunting dog or painted wolf, is one of the world’s most endangered carnivore species. Once found widely distributed across sub-Saharan Africa in woodland, savannah, shrubland and grassland, they are now listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as they have sadly disappeared from over 90% of their former range. They are now only found in fragmented populations mainly in southern and eastern Africa, and are thought to number fewer than 6,600 individuals.

This alarming decrease in population size was due mainly to shooting and poisoning in livestock areas. Although wild dogs have been known to take sheep or goats in areas of low prey density, the reason for persecution has also been due to wild dogs’ reputation as ‘cruel and bloodthirsty killers’, unfairly earned by their killing methods of tearing prey apart.

African wild dogs disappeared from Laikipia at the start of the 1980s due to the combined effects of persecution and disease, but were recorded back in the area during 2000. In 2003, the minimum population estimate was 150 wild dogs in 11 packs, comparable to populations in national parks.

© Hannah Campbell

Although wild dogs are now a protected species, they remain at risk of extinction due to increased conflict with humans in competition for space. Their ranging behaviour in pursuit of prey means they require very large areas to support viable populations.

Increased use of land for farming and the expanding human population means that wild dogs are being forced into small, unconnected areas. As a result of their extensive territories, even large fragments may only contain very few individuals; too small to sustain a viable wild dog population as not enough genetic variation is present to provide a sustainable population, leading to localised extinctions.

The highest priority for the conservation of African wild dogs is dealing with habitat fragmentation. A crucial part of the work we do at Loisaba is to help protect vital wildlife corridors for all species to safely cross. Last weekend’s episode of Dynasties showed just how important this connectivity is to the conservation of African wild dogs.  (https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p06mvrr0/dynasties-series-1-4-painted-wolf)

 

Land connected. Life protected.

 

If you would like to help us conserve some of our planets most important habitat, please visit www.loisaba.com/donate

 

© Hannah Campbell

 

Fun Facts

African wild dogs are highly social, usually forming packs of between six and 20 individuals (although packs as large as 30 have been observed!).

BBC – Dynasties

The females rather than the males are the ones to leave the family group in search of new packs, a unique behaviour among social carnivores.

Dominance hierarchies are established by showing submissiveness, with the dogs rarely showing aggression to one another.

Wild dogs give birth to the largest litters of any other dog species, usually between seven and 10 pups but they can number up to 20. Due to the size of these litters, only the dominant pair of the pack breed, and other members help to bring up the young. As other members of the pack are usually related to the dominant pair, looking after their offspring also ensures the passing on of their own genes as they are likely to share at least half of their genetics with the dominant female.

BBC – Dynasties

Wild dogs do not fight each other for access to food, and meat is divided between pack members after a successful hunt. When there are puppies in a den, some dogs will remain behind on hunts to guard them, and will beg for food from other members when they return. The dogs that have returned from a successful hunt will regurgitate food for the adults as well as the young, another unique behavioural trait among carnivores.

BBC – Dynasties

They are primarily crepuscular hyper-carnivores, meaning they are active at dawn and dusk and rest during the hot hours of the day (although they are known to hunt at night when there is sufficient light from the moon!) and they get all of their dietary needs from protein and therefore eat only meat.

Unlike cats which rely on stalking their prey until they are close followed by a short sprint, African wild dogs rely on out-running their prey over distances as far as 5km (2km on average), reaching speeds of up to 66km per hour.

Their hunts are highly successful, around 80% of all hunts end in a kill (lions having a success rate of only 10%). This high success rate is primarily due to their cooperation during hunts.

By Hannah Campbell

Last week, our brilliant security Manager Daniel Yiankere was invited to KWS Headquarters in Nairobi to celebrate #worldrangerday in recognition of being one of the 50 rangers to have won an award in the 2018 African Ranger Awards by Paradise International Foundation.

© Izzy Parsons

On July 21st 2017, Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba and co-chair of Paradise International Foundation, announced in Kigali that a 10-year award program would be set up to support 500 wildlife rangers across Africa. The Paradise African Ranger Award will be given annually to 50 rangers in Africa who have made outstanding efforts to combat poaching, habitat loss, and the illegal wildlife trade. Today in Cape Town, some of the 50 winners will receive their awards in recognition and celebration of their achievements.

Daniel became a ranger for KWS in 1992 and during his 24 years’ service worked all over the country, in the Mara, Meru, Tsavo, Amboseli, Mt Elgon and Nairobi National Park. Daniel states, “serving as a Ranger makes me happy and gives me a sense of duty and pride – I feel that I have and still continue to make a great contribution to wildlife conservation.” He has been at Loisaba for over a year leading Loisaba’s security team of 64 Rangers and canine unit comprising four bloodhounds.

Daniel chose to become a ranger 25 years ago to protect Kenya’s wild animals for future generations. “One of my greatest successes was the interception of 81 pieces of ivory – at that time the person received a low fine but I am glad that today the penalties are steep after the enactment of the Wildlife Act – it helps discourage people from poaching our wildlife”, Daniel Sotian Yiankere.

Congratulations Daniel for this well deserved recognition for your incredible hard work and diligence protecting Kenya’s wildlife over the years! Find more on the 50 amazing African Rangers on http://bit.ly/2Oc9q99

 

© Mikey Purchase

In May, Loisaba Conservancy hosted a ‘Fly In’ organised by the Aero Club of East Africa, an event normally held once every two years. Participants enjoyed a weekend of flying fun whilst staying at Elewana Collections luxury Loisaba Tented Camp and Loisaba Star Beds.

Eight aircrafts participated in the event including, two Cessna 206’s, one X-Cub, one Cessna 180 and four Cessna 182’s with pilots ranging from commercial pilots, recreational pilots to aviation enthusiasts.

The activities of the ‘Fly In’ included challenges such as the shortest take off distance; flour bag bomb dropping from a height of 200m into a large target on the airfield and spot landings onto a line on the airstrip. The pilots also enjoyed scenic flights around Loisaba Conservancy with elephant sightings in the hundreds.

© Michelle Purchase

The highlight of the flying fun was a flour bomb landing on the spectator tent during morning tea and biscuits! Once the flying was finished, guests spent the rest of the day lazing by the pool and going on game drives where they were lucky enough to spot lions and a leopard! A brief awards ceremony was held after dinner on Saturday night which was followed by an entertaining quiz.

We’re really looking forward to seeing all the participants and more back here at Loisaba next year!

By: Mikey Purchase

 

 

Nanyuki and Memusi on exercise

Tracker dogs are one of the most effective tools for wildlife security, often deterring poachers from even entering an area. Over the years our two bloodhounds Warrior and Machine have proved invaluable to Loisaba’s security team. They have helped track down dozens of poachers and criminals, find missing people and return livestock to their owners, earning them their well deserved reputation throughout Laikipia.

Memusi (male)

We are so excited to introduce two new recruits to our K9 unit – Memusi and Nanyuki! They were born in the Mara and are a cross breed of Bloodhound and Bluetick Coonhound. Their parents are both excellent trackers imported from the USA, their mother Anna (Bloodhound/Coonhound) is deep nosed and an amazingly accurate tracker whilst their father Morani (Bloodhound) a no nonsense brave tracker has led to the arrest of over 100 poachers during his 8 year deployment in the Mara Triangle. Born in August 2017, Memusi and Nanyuki have received training from both domestic and international trainers which we will continue here at Loisaba.

Nanyuki (female)

The incredible work these tracker dogs do combined with Kenya’s strong wildlife trophy law which can result in imprisonment for life or a 20 million shilling ($20,000) fine is a huge deterrent to poachers.

A big thank you to The Nature Conservancy for enabling Nanyuki and Memusi and their wonderful personalties to join the team!