Conservation Director, Peter Riger, assisted Painted Dog Conservation in Zimbabwe with the reintroduction of 6 Painted dogs a few months ago. He is back in Zimbabwe now, and checking up on the pack.
The translocation of 6 dogs we were lucky enough to witness back in April is going very well. The dogs were released out of their soft holding pens in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and into Hwange National Park in late July. Since then, they have been observed making 4 successful kills so far including two impala, a water buck and a kudu. This is the best news possible for a newly reintroduced group of dogs as it shows they have learned to hunt as a cohesive pack.
Conservation Director, Peter Riger, has returned to Zimbabwe to assist Painted Dog Conservation in helping the rural communities around Hwange National park with building water catchment systems and upgrading livestock parasite treatment.
Friday August 26th
Did you ever start the day thinking nothing will go as planned? I think this on many trips until bits and pieces fall into place. Today we had some bits and visited some pieces. We started with a visit to the town of Hwange around 10am and a visit to one of the Gov’t Veterinarians Dr. Zishiri to explain what we were working on with Painted Dog Conservation. Very similar to the April meeting with the Chief in the Village of Mabale but we wanted his input on use of tick and disease control methods and the discussions bring us a few steps closer to getting up an running. A few more errands, looking at available building supply material, an attempted meeting with the District Council throughout the day. Visit first to the health clinic in Lupote and then on the dip tank in Mabale for more measurements and figuring out water capacity. This all hopefully sets the stage for another meeting with the Chief so we can get started. If it seems as though this conservation effort is all about people, it is for now but their decisions affect wildlife here every day.
Not very exotic visiting building supply stores, cows and goats but we are still in Zimbabwe and if you want to see one of the most attractive antelope in the world, look up Sable Antelope. We were winding our way through some baboons on the main road (just another normal occurrence) and off to the side in the brush were a group of 6-7 Sable. Turn off down the dirt road to our housing, round the corner, and there stood 15-20 Elephants in the Pan. We typically call them waterholes but in Zimbabwe and Botswana these sites are known as Pans. Given we are in the winter drought season, they are more mud holes than waterholes. Water is more difficult to find so the elephants congregate here to drink what they can. Around the next corner was a small group of Common Waterbuck with a juvenile and of course back at the house the sounds of elephant, jackal, kalahari toads, insect-eating bats and a male lion are easily heard from the porch.
The project may be people and cows, but this is still Africa as you always imagined it.
By Peter Riger
Stay tuned for more of Peter’s exciting reports from Zimbabwe.
Conservation Director, Peter Riger, has returned to Zimbabwe to assist Painted Dog Conservation in helping the rural communities around Hwange National park with building water catchment systems and upgrading livestock parasite treatment. Here is the first instalment of his adventures in Zimbabwe.
Thursday, August 25th.
It has been a typical two day journey back to Painted Dog Conservation near Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. It has been nearly 4 months since we visited to start gathering ideas for community support programs here. We returned home in early May thinking we could initiate a livestock health program in the local village, and possibly secure a water source for the main health clinic as well. Friday we meet with the regional government veterinarian to outline some of the ideas. We then go to town to look for supplies, so we can sketch out some ideas over the weekend .
Conservation Director, Peter Riger, and Agricultural Specialist, John Huston in Hwange National Park
When you return to work on a project, you have plenty of airplane time to think about what might and might not go as planned. By the time you finally reach your destination and get to talking with people you have not seen for many months, you tend to ignore what is going on around you. Hearing lions or jackals in the bushes while sitting outside before dinner seems perfectly normal. In Houston, we would run inside as fast as we can. Elephants trumpeting 20-30yards away? No one missed a beat in the conversation. “Oh look, there’s a leopard”. Now that got our attention. Of course we all ran towards the area to try and get a better look as a tail disappeared into the brush just 20 feet away from one of the volunteer houses. We of course stayed by the back door. We have not managed to keep all our toes and fingers intact working around animals by not being cautious. It is just amazing for all of us to be able to see a leopard just passing by. 10 minutes later of course we were rummaging around on the path looking for paw prints, but surely he had moved on by then??? Of course the Hyena are now making a racket and my room is filled with the sounds of squeaking bats in the roof. At least it is only 80 degrees here today.
Stay tuned for more exciting conservation adventures in Zimbabwe.
Our friends at Painted Dog Conservation in Zimbabwe just sent this update on the Painted dog population in Hwange National Park.
Extract From The Hwange National Park Research Report
Sightings of painted dogs in and around Hwange National Park for June/July 2011:
1. Total in Gwayi /HSL area: 8 Dogs, Pack Names – Kanondo and Kutanga
2. Total Sinamatella: 18 adults and yearlings, Pack Names – Gobo springs, Masuma and Lukosi River
3. Total Main Camp : 18 adults and yearlings, Pack Names – Sibindimalisa, Bomani, Sisele and Guvalala East
4. Total Known 44 adults and yearlings
Enjoy this clip of tracking dogs with Painted Dog Conservation in Hwange National Park.
We have some super dooper exciting news coming from behind the scenes at the Houston Zoo! For the first time since the 1980′s, we have successfully bred the highly endangered Houston toad in captivity resulting in the existence of two of the cutest little toadlets you are likely to ever lay your eyeballs on.
Due to extreme droughts in 2011 we were unable to head start Houston toad eggs from the wild so efforts are now underway to breed them in captivity. Headstarting is a process by which we remove eggs from the wild, raise the tadpoles at the Zoo, and then release them back at the pond. Because there has not been enough rain, the wild Houston toads have not been able to emerge and migrate to breed and lay eggs.
The Houston toad was the first amphibian ever placed on the endangered species list and is one of our most endangered animals in Texas! Current estimates are that only 200-300 adults may remain in the wild.
We have a captive assurance colony of Houston toads at the Zoo to keep the species from going extinct if conditions get even worse in the wild and efforts to breed these animals started in July.
From a breeding event on July 19th we now have two little captive bred Houston toads that have gone through the tadpole stage in just under three weeks and have popped out all of their legs, developed lungs, and have crawled out of the water.
Their names are Ignacio and Santiago…affectionately so by thier keeper, Aleyda.
Please give the Houston toad and Veterinary Team some congrats on their big success! Hopefully more good news to come as breeding attempts started again this week and we have more eggs! Stay tuned….
I love it when our Houston Zoo patrons contact me to share their stories about native wildlife (especially amphibians) in their own backyards. I especially love it when they become so interested that they give these frogs and toads their own fancy names, observe their daily activities, and actually do things to make the toads more comfortable living in an urban environment. Lets face it, it has got to be hard for a little googly eyed toad living in the city and they can use all of the help we can offer them! Toads, and other reptiles and amphibians, are constantly dodging a gambit of dangerous threats such as moving cars, shovels, domestic cats, and concrete being laid on top of their heads!
Janet Denton is one such fabulous Houstonian who attended our Texas Amphibian Workshop back in May and now has become quite familiar with some of the little Coastal Plains Toads calling her backyard their home. These fantastic toads can live in Janets back yard for up to 10 years gobbling up mosquitos and other pesky insects. Go Janet Dentons toads! Do your thing toads!
Janet found that she also has several little toad tadpoles in her small, man made pond in her back yard, so she has put in a ramp so that the little toads can hop out of the pond once they go through metamophosis. She has also offered them a nutritious and organic collared green leaf which is full of vitamins and nutrients for the little growing polliwogs. One of her little tadpoles has already come out of the water- SEE PHOTO BELOW! Did you know that tadpoles are vegetarians and adult toads are carnivores? They make the switch once they develop their lungs, grow their legs, and pop out of the water.
Here are some photos below of Janet Dentons backyard toads and tadpoles.
Do you have stories of your backyard creatures that you can share?
Toad Que sat on the wheel of our BBQ for three straight nights!
Hopps is one of my favorites. Very brave, not scared of me or the dogs.
Piper likes to hang out in the overflow pipe to the pond and watch the world go by.
You can see a few tadpoles enjoying their collard green.
I'm so excited to announce the sighting of my first toadlet! He (she?) was hopping across the patio at about 8:00 this morning!