Description of the project and research questions being asked
African Painted Dogs are racing toward extinction due to habitat loss, human persecution, disease (especially rabies), accidental by-catch in wire snares, loss of prey and competition with larger carnivores like lions. African Painted Dogs, or African Wild Dogs (Lycaon Pictus) are unique to Africa and they are among this continent's most endangered species. It is estimated that a mere 3,000 - 5,000 remain giving them a Critically Endangered status by the IUCN Redlist rating. The Painted Dog population in Zimbabwe is one of the last strongholds of the species. With their unique and striking coat patterns, their intelligence and their highly interactive and caring nature, Painted Dogs are truly one of the most awe inspiring species alive today.
Projects I will be assisting with aim to understand the major threats to Painted Dogs through management-oriented research, hands-on conservation and community education and outreach. This includes:
- Collaring and monitoring key packs using spoor tracking, radio telemetry, and camera traps
- Rabies vaccination campaigns in domestic dog populations
- Snare removal
- Working in schools and communities to increase awareness and increase education standards and opportunities
In order to create and implement sufficient conservation measures focused on this species, characteristics such as understanding pup survival rates, causes of mortality of adults and pups, movement patterns, potential conflict, genetic diversity, inter-specific competition and the impact of various conservation measures must be discovered.
With many conservation and research projects underway to better understand the Painted Dog the next step to saving them is education. Data and facts are needed and are useful but numbers only go so far when they remain in the scientific and research community. This information needs to be shared and taught in order for it to take full effect and give it the most potential possible.
Discoveries from research will present solutions to the problems inherent within current Painted Dog conservation plans. I will be working closely with the Painted Dog Conservation (PDC) and the African Wildlife Conservation Fund (AWCF) via the Chishakwe Ranch in Zimbabwe. Here I will be able to learn first hand the most updated and current research techniques and aid in the projects being done by the most pristine and knowledgeable researchers in the field today. I will also be creating and implementing a curriculum for middle school aged children on the adaptions and conservation of the Painted Dog. In addition I will also be able to learn and assist in the rehabilitation and release of injured Painted Dogs. It is my hope that with this experience I will be able to help change the direction of this wonderful species from the brink of extinction to a healthy and sustained population.
Why this matters and should be exciting to backers
Education and community involvement and support are critical to successful long-term conservation. AWCF and PDC work throughout Zimbabwe’s southeast Lowveld to establish long term, sustainable environmental education projects in communities surrounding key wildlife areas. Both AWCF and PDC take several different approaches to education and outreach of communities neighboring wildlife areas.
The project I will be most evolved with aims to establish a bush school to which groups of school children can be taken on field trips and leadership training workshops. Although the target is school-based education projects at primary schools, follow through with the most promising and needy of our primary school children by supporting them through secondary school with funds for fees, uniforms and books is also done.
Mobile education units are effectively travelling libraries, which travel round the villages and base in a community for a week at a time. Here trained educators, like myself, will show wildlife or conservation themed DVDs morning and evening – open for anyone to attend and followed by an informal question and answer session. In this way, we will be able to reach a wide range of people of both sexes and all ages, and let them into some of the secrets of this amazing world we live in. These workshops are held several times a year with the specific aim of advising and assisting farmers in predator-friendly livestock management techniques, in order to reduce conflict with lions and other large carnivores, and increase tolerance.
What your money can do
Your dollars will directly impact the intensity and quality of my studies by allowing me to embark on this amazing journey. Not only will this be an individual’s self discovery and adventure but it will give aid to AWCF, PDC, the neighboring communities and their missions.
Requirements for my MS/PSM degree include participating in two internships. An internship is a unique way of testing your field of interest. It is a way to experiment and find out whether or not this is something you would like to do professionally. Of course, it's also a way to gain experience and develop contacts: two things that are critically important as you develop your career.
Extra funds raised through this research will go directly to AWCF and PDC conservation efforts. Please visit their websites to learn more about the work that they do for Painted Dogs and for local communities in Zimbabwe.
In the coming semester I will be working and defining my thesis topic and research. I wish to research how the domesticated dog is widely seen as man’s best friend while their wild evolutionary parents and cousins are seen as pests that need to be exterminated. My main goal is to research this question in the US with wolves. However, I would also like to extend that question internationally with the Painted Dog. This will give my research broader data that can be used to see if there are differences/similarities across cultures and what the differences/similarities may be.
I have always had a fascination and love for wildlife, especially wolves and wild dogs. Because becoming a full time biologist didn’t feel like a good fit for me I never thought I would have a career helping these amazing animals. Until I started volunteering at the Denver Zoo in 2010 and I was introduced to informal education and interpretation. I have since been working on developing and refining my skills as educator, interpreter and researcher though my graduate work, volunteering and internships. With these skills I will be able to achieve my goal of preserving imperiled wolves and wild dogs.
Now I am a MS and PSM candidate at Antioch University New England. Here I am the Outreach Coordinator for the Center of Tropical Ecology and Conservation as well as a Student Alliance representative for my degree concentration and class. My research is focusing on the wild dog-human conflict. My thesis research is more specifically looking into why wild dogs are seen as pests and domesticated dogs are seen as ‘man’s best friend’ and how education can help eradicate the common misconceptions people have about wolves due to mythologies and media.