Plans are in the works to return to Africa again this year. It will be my 10th trip and this experience promises to be like no other. My husband and I will be joining Dr. Greg Rasmussen, Founder & Research Director of Painted Dog Conservation in Zimbabwe. No safari for us – it won’t be necessary – we’ll be camped out in the bush with wildlife 24/7 as we track, collar, and collect data on the endangered Painted Dogs of Africa.We first met Greg 18 months ago while attending the Wildlife Conservation Network in San Francisco. I’d been following his work with Painted Dogs and we hit it off immediately. Greg’s friends include many internationally known conservationists including the legendary Jane Goodall.
Painted Dogs, also known as African Wild Dogs, are unique to Africa and among Africa’s most endangered species. At the turn of the 20th century there were half a million. It is estimated that only 3,000 – 5,000 still survive. The population in Zimbabwe is one of the last strongholds of the species and Greg’s Painted Dog Conservation is committed to saving them.
Painted Dogs have long legs, a lean body and large ears. Their coats vary in pattern and coloration mixing black, grey, gold, and white to produce a unique painted effect. They live in packs and are very social. Only the dominant male and female breed, but the whole pack takes care of the young.
A question I’m often asked is how Painted Dogs differ from hyenas. Seeing them side by side makes the physical differences obvious. Hyena will take every opportunity to steal whatever the Dogs kill.
On our last trip to Zimbabwe we filmed our documentary “As Close As You Dare – Africa” which was broadcast by PBS across the US. During our filming we encountered a large pack of Painted Dogs and found ourselves surrounded. We captured some incredible footage that shows what happened. (The DVD is available) While in Zimbabwe this year with Greg Rasmussen we’ll be searching for this pack again to record how they’re doing.
My summer adventure. What’s on your list? Join me on the journey.
Becci Crowe Adventure Artist