The Waterberg Wild Dog Initiative works alongside the community to enhance understanding and promote the conservation of African Wild Dogs within the Waterberg.
Conserving the Waterberg Wild Dogs.
The Waterberg Wild Dog Initiative (WWDI) is a community-driven, non-profit project aiming to conserve the free-roaming African Wild Dog population in the Waterberg Biosphere, Limpopo. WWDI works alongside the community to collect accurate information on the Waterberg Wild Dogs, understand and mitigate human-wildlife conflict, raise awareness, provide education, and leverage the ecotourism potential of the dogs.
WWDI works alongside the Waterberg community and other relevant stakeholders to:
monitor the Waterberg Wild Dogs;
understand and mitigate human-wildlife conflict;
collect accurate data;
provide education; and
boost the dogs' ecotourism potential.
By engaging the community with the conservation efforts, WWDI hopes to foster a sense of community ownership and responsibility for the dogs - changing views, increasing tolerances, and creating a sustainably safe environment for the Waterberg Wild Dogs.
WWDI has made huge strides in conserving the Waterberg Wild Dogs since its inception in August 2020. WWDI has placed tracking collars on two free-roaming packs, providing valuable information about the packs and giving an extra layer of protection to the dogs by being able to monitor their movements. Information from these collars is relayed to community members in the area, providing an early-warning system for landowners as the pack moves through private lands.
When dogs travel too close to livestock farms or breeding camps, the WWDI team assists landowners with husbandry tools that deter predation. By reducing the high-value game and livestock species lost to wild dogs through these efforts, WWDI is fostering a more tolerant and sustainable environment for the dogs to thrive.
During the 2021 Denning Season, WWDI coordinated an ecotourism operation that generated funds from visitors paying to see the wild dog pack and distributed the funds back to the landowners impacted by the pack denning on their property and the surrounding properties. This model leveraged the opportunity to observe free-roaming wild dogs while they are relatively stationary during the denning season and use the funds generated to mitigate the impact of the wild dogs on the properties around the chosen den site. This period also provided an opportunity to increase awareness and appreciation for the Waterberg Wild Dogs and to learn new information about them that can be shared with the local community and interested researchers. Over 6.5 weeks, 144 guests attended the ecotourism and WWDI raised approximately R137,400 in donations to support the landowners and the pack during this critical time.
By inviting the community to participate in the initiative, WWDI inspires community members to take ownership of the dogs, become citizen scientists, and conserve them.
These efforts and successes show that a community-driven initiative and a co-existence framework is an effective way to conserve the Waterberg Wild Dogs.
WWDI Partners With The Aspinall Foundation
Milestones so far...
WWDI was founded on August 13th, 2020 following a meeting between prominent Waterberg stakeholders and the Endangered Wildlife Trust. During the meeting, it was decided there needed to be a community-driven project dedicated to conserving the Waterberg Wild Dogs - and the concept of the Waterberg Wild Dog Initiative was conceived.
Breeding Pack Beta Male Collared
Only two weeks after its founding, WWDI helped coordinate the placement of a GPS tracking collar on the breeding pack of Waterberg Wild Dogs ranging just south of Lephalale. WWDI first received a report of an African Wild Dog seen crossing the R33 late one evening. WWDI and nearby community members quickly responded the following morning to help track the dogs. The private property where they were tracked helped keep tabs on their movements for the following week while a GPS collar was sourced.
This collaring was made possible by a joint effort between the Waterberg community, WWDI, and the Endangered Wildlife Trust.
Breeding Pack Alpha Male Collared
WWDI partnered with The Aspinall Foundation, a UK-based conservation organization, to fit a GPS tracking collar to the alpha male in the breeding pack. This second collar was necessary to reliably monitor the pack's movements.
Highveld Forum Presentation
In May 2021, WWDI Project Coordinator, Reilly Mooney, gave a virtual presentation to the Hivghveld Forum. The title of her talk was Shining the Light on the Elusive Waterberg Wild Dogs and detailed the complexity of Waterberg Wild Dog conservation and WWDI's efforts to date.
Breeding Pack Yearling Collared
WWDI partnered with The Aspinall Foundation to place a GPS tracking collar on one of the yearling females in the breeding pack. This collar will allow WWDI to monitor and track the yearling females in case they disperse. The beta male's collar stopped sending GPS locations earlier in the year, meaning this collar on the yearling female now functions as the second working collar on the pack, allowing WWDI to more reliably monitor their movements.
Denning Season Ecotourism Ran
The only known breeding pack of Waterberg Wild Dogs successfully reared seven new pups during the 2021 Denning Season. During the denning season, wild dogs remain stationary around a den site for approximately 10 weeks. This stationary behavior creates the potential for high, localized impact on private properties and resulting potential for conflict. During this time, WWDI coordinated a wild dog based ecotourism operation that generated funds from visitors paying to see the wild dog pack and distributed the funds back to the landowners impacted by the pack denning on their property and the surrounding properties. This period also provided an opportunity to increase awareness and appreciation for the Waterberg Wild Dogs and to learn new information about them that can be shared with the local community and interested researchers.
Over 6.5 weeks, 144 guests donated to view the pack and raised approximately R137,400 to assist the landowners during this time.
For a full copy of the ecotourism report, please find it on our resources page.
Rooiberg Male Collared
In July 2021, two new wild dogs were being reported in the Rooiberg area. One morning, they were seen trying to chase a cheetah coalition off of their fresh kill on the Mabula Game Reserve. Through the quick assistance from our veterinarian and the community members in the area, a GPS collar was placed on one of the dogs. This collaring was made possible through WWDI's partnership with The Aspinall Foundation and the support from the Rory Hensman Conservation & Research Unit.
During the collaring, it was discovered that the two dogs were, in fact, two males that had belonged to a pack of wild dogs in northern Limpopo that were being monitored by the Endangered Wildlife Trust. The males dispersed from the pack earlier in the year and their whereabouts were largely unknown until their arrival on Mabula. Over only a few months, the males travelled 330km to reach Mabula.
Waterberg Nature Conservancy Presentation
In September 2021, WWDI Project Coordinator, Reilly Mooney, gave a talk at the Waterberg Nature Conservancy. The title of her talk was Protecting the Most Important Pack of Waterberg Wild Dogs and it detailed WWDI's efforts with the breeding pack over the last year, including the efforts with the ecotourism conducted during the denning season.
Waterberg Academy Presentation
In October 2021, WWDI Project Coordinator, Reilly Mooney, had the chance to connect with learners at the Waterberg Academy through a collaboration with the Welgevonden Environmental Awareness Programme. The title of her talk was Myth-Busting the Waterberg Wild Dogs and it disproved common misconceptions and misbeliefs about the Waterberg Wild Dogs.