Zimbabwe's Wild Dogs/Painted Wolves: a focus of tourism and conservation

Wild Zambezi • 4 February 2019

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Sir David Attenborough's latest BBC Dynasties series released in December 2018 is captivating audiences all over the world. 

None more so than the episode featuring the "painted wolves" in Mana Pools National Park.

The beautifully-filmed story of 'Blacktip' and “Tammy” and their packs filmed right here on location along the Zambezi River, tells of a dramatic mother-daughter feud, a violent death and the fight for survival.

This episode alone has brought the plight of the  wild dog/painted dog/painted wolf Lycaon pictus and its fight for survival in Africa's fast diminishing wild habitats, into sharp relief.  It has also served to underscore the important work being done to help conserve these animals in places like Hwange and Mana Pools National Parks - both protected areas large enough for packs to roam.

Tourism can play a part too - by providing much-needed funding to assist the conservation work taking place in these Parks.  The resident packs of these apex predators have long been a focus of safari itineraries, particularly in Mana Pools where they are regularly sighted, and appear remarkably relaxed in the presence of humans. 

Bushlife Safaris, who hosted Sir David and the the BBC film crew in Mana Pools are particularly proactive in their conservation efforts.  Their Bushlife Conservancy does excellent work supporting anti-poaching rangers and, with partners, provides much needed equipment and back-up to help protect this valuable park and its wildlife resources, including the famous packs which feature in the film. They receive considerable backing from their international tourism guests for their efforts. 

Two of Zimbabwe's major tour operations, African Bush Camps and Wilderness Safaris, who operate in both of the large National Park home territories of the dog/wolf packs are now offering specialised photographic safari circuits focused on the wild dogs/painted wolves.

AFRICA BUSH CAMPS urges safari-goers to join them "as we follow Sir David Attenborough's footsteps and walk alongside these endearing and impressive animals, on foot!   

This circuit will raise any safari lovers’ pulse, it combines the beauty of Victoria Falls with the unique experience of tracking and observing wild dogs across Zimbabwe. A visit to the Hwange Painted Dog Conservation Centre offers an understanding of the work being done to help conserve these incredible creatures. End the safari on a high in Mana Pools National Park, the exact area, that the BBC team spent 2 years filming the latest Dynasties episode."   

Mana Pools is home to African Bush Camps' Kanga Camp, Zambezi Expeditions tented camp, and Nyamatusi Camp and Nyamatusi Mahogany.


WILDERNESS SAFARIS ZIMBABWE has partnered with renowned NGO, Painted Dog Conservation, "to help drive the conservation of this Endangered species in Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools and Hwange National Parks.   

“We have worked closely with Painted Dog Conservation (PDC) in Hwange for 20 years, and are thrilled to support their ongoing work in Mana Pools with the establishment of a research base at Nyamepi. With fewer than 7 000 wild dogs left in Africa, it is imperative for us to continue working closely together in both Hwange and Mana to manage wild dog conservation.

We were also proud to donate the funds to cover a month of PDC’s operating costs at Nyamepi, as well as the cost of a collar, at the end of last year, as a gift of appreciation for the ongoing support we receive from our trade partners”, commented Dean Morton, Wilderness Safaris Zambezi Operations Manager.

The new Nyamepi base will enable the researchers to process various samples on site on a daily basis, including fecal samples, which will help PDC build a picture of the diet base of the dogs in the valley. “This will greatly improve the efficiency of our data collected at Mana”, said Peter Blinston, PDC Executive Director.  

PDC will be giving Wilderness Safaris the ID files of all the wild dog packs in both Hwange and Mana, so that both guides and guests will be able to assist them by taking photos, dates and times of each sighting. “Log stats of sightings provide critical information for us; better still if they are immediately reported, particularly in the case of injured animals. We are also working on image recognition software which, once complete, will give guests open access to uploading their photos and sighting information online”, Peter added.

Wilderness Safaris' guests visiting Mana Pools will be able to take part in these activities at Ruckomechi Camp, Little Rukomechi and the newly-re-opened Chikwenya Camp (pictured below)

We are looking forward to working closely with the PDC team to raise funds and as much awareness about the plight of wild dogs as possible, and to help drive their critical conservation efforts going forward”, Dean concluded.  


In addition to the operations above, you can also spend time with the now famous wild dogs/painted wolves of Mana Pools National Park in the company of an experienced professional guide, with the following tour operations:-

James Varden Safaris
John Stevens Guided Safaris Africa
Mwinilunga Safaris
Natureways Safaris
Robin Pope Safaris Zimbabwe (John's Camp)
Stretch Ferriera Safaris (Goliath Camp)
Sunpath Safaris (Camp Mana)

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