There can be few more rewarding experiences in conservation than successfully reintroducing a critically endangered species to an area and seeing it flourish. This is precisely what the Grumeti Fund (GF) recently achieved by releasing two packs of African wild dogs into the Serengeti National Park (SNP) area and helping to move this biologically important carnivore species out of harm’s way.
African wild dogs – also known as “painted wolves” or “painted dogs” – used to be found in large numbers on the open plains of sub-Saharan Africa, but a combination of successive disease outbreaks and the encroachment of farming activity resulted in a huge decline in the species. By 1992, the population in the Park had vanished and the animals were presumed extinct in the region.
As the area was slowly rehabilitated through the creation of more protected land and dedicated conservation organisations like the GF, so wild dogs began reappearing in the Serengeti. This came with its own problems however, as packs of wild dogs started coming into conflict with local Maasai communities. A lack of wildlife in these pastoral areas was forcing the wild dogs to hunt livestock, which is critical for the livelihoods of the Maasai, and in retaliation the predators were being poisoned, killed and harassed.
The response from the GF and its government partner, the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI), was to create the Serengeti Wild Dogs Conservation Project; the aim of which is to ensure long-term conservation of the African wild dog population in the Serengeti ecosystem. In order to achieve this, several of the most severely threatened packs of wild dogs were identified for relocation to suitable habitats in the western part of the Serengeti National Park, where they wouldn’t be in conflict with humans and could be safely monitored by the Project. Since April 2015, two packs have been released into the Nyasirori area, southeast of Singita Sabora Tented Camp, and a year later, the packs have integrated into one and seven new pups have been born.
Recent wildlife reports from Singita Grumeti indicate that their range is expanding, as the animals have been tracked across Singita Grumeti concession area, through parts of the SNP and all the way up to the Mara River. Field guides and guests have also had some amazing sightings, with three dogs hunting an impala all the way up to Singita Sasakwa Lodge on December 16th. The success of this program has been the springboard for accomplishing the next phase of the Serengeti Wild Dogs Conservation Project; the objectives of which include the relocation of more wild dogs, encouraging wild dog-related tourism, studying the animals’ health and survival mechanisms and working with neighbouring communities to raise awareness about the importance of wild dog conservation.
In the meantime, the GF continues to assist TAWIRI with monitoring the pack, as well as working together on various conservation tasks, ranging from re-introduction projects like this one, to undertaking aerial game counts, managing wild fires and reducing the impact of invasive alien plant species. This work, as well as a number of other ongoing biodiversity, sustainability and community initiatives, is crucial to the GF fulfilling its mission to contribute to the conservation of the Serengeti ecosystem, its natural landscape, and its wildlife.
Tanzania is one of the world’s most biodiverse countries, with more than 30% of its land devoted to conservation in various forms. 350,000 acres of that land is the Singita Grumeti concession, where the GF has been instrumental in ensuring the continued protection and integrity of the reserve. You can learn all about the work of the GF here, and visit our website to discover Singita’s lodges and camps in Tanzania that assist with generating the funds that make this work possible.