Thursday, October 1, 2020

African wilddogs relocated to Mozambique

 

Mozambique   is a country located in Southern Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Eswatini (Swaziland) and South Africa. The capital and largest city of Mozambique is Maputo formerly known as "Lourenço Marques".

Between the first and fifth centuries AD, Bantu-speaking peoples migrated to present-day Mozambique from farther north and west.  The voyage of Vasco da Gama in 1498 marked the arrival of the Portuguese, who began a gradual process of colonisation and settlement in 1505. After over four centuries of Portuguese rule, Mozambique gained independence in 1975, becoming the People's Republic of Mozambique shortly thereafter. After only two years of independence, the country descended into an intense and protracted civil war lasting from 1977 to 1992. In 1994, Mozambique held its first multiparty elections, and has since remained a relatively stable presidential republic, although it still faces a low-intensity insurgency.

For decades a forgotten corner of Mozambique, Cabo Delgado has now become the country’s El Dorado, promising billions in natural gas and gemstones but delivering its population only violence and displacement. An insurgency in the province now threatens to become further entrenched – 50,000 people have fled their homes since March and Mozambique’s neighbours are currently debating sending in regional forces to help defeat militants who seized a strategic port in the town of Mocímboa da Praia last month.

The fear is that such an action could alienate a population with serious grievances, despite the chaos caused by Isis-linked militant group Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jamaa, known locally as al-Shabaab (though it has no links with the better-known Somalia-based Islamist militant group of the same name). Cabo Delgado has spent decades underdeveloped. Even past decade’s dual discoveries of $50bn (£38bn) worth of natural gas and rubies that sell for hundreds of millions of dollars brought only displacement and misery for local people. 

Those who have fled Cabo Delgado in the past six months take the total number of people displaced in the region to more than 200,000 (10% of its population) since 2017, when Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jamaa launched an insurgency. More than 1,000 people have been killed in the past three years. The latest attacks have added to an already desperate situation for residents, still trying to recover from the destruction caused by last year’s Cyclone Kenneth. More than a fifth of people do not have enough food. Many are forced to seek shelter with relatives and stretch shared resources. Prices for fuel and staple foods such as rice and maize have increased. The fighting this year has seen many humanitarian groups withdraw from the region. Agencies say they can only access some of the worst areas by air, river or sea, and that rural areas have been all but abandoned because of Covid-19.  This is no post on civil strife in Mozambique but on transit of wild dogs to the place !   

Founded in 1998, The Bateleurs is a Non Profit Company (NPC), with over 200 volunteer pilots and aircraft. It provides its beneficiaries and the public with an aerial perspective of the environment and has coordinated several, diverse missions, throughout South Africa and Africa, in support of environmental issues.

The African wild dog is known by many names, including Cape hunting dog or painted dog. Its scientific name, Lycaon pictus, means “painted wolf,” referring to the animal's irregular, mottled coat, which features patches of red, black, brown, white, and yellow fur. Each animal has its own unique coat pattern, and all have big, rounded ears. These long-legged canines have only four toes per foot, unlike other dogs, which have five toes on their forefeet.  It is the largest indigenous canine in Africa, and the only extant member of the genus Lycaon.  ,  It is estimated that about 6,600 adults including 1,400 mature individuals live in 39 subpopulations that are all threatened by habitat fragmentation, human persecution and outbreaks of diseases. The African wild dog is a highly social animal, living in packs with separate dominance hierarchies for males and females. Uniquely among social carnivores, the females rather than the males disperse from the natal pack once sexually mature.   The species is a specialised diurnal hunter of antelopes, which it catches by chasing them to exhaustion.  

In a post titled ‘let sleeping dogs fly!’ MailOnline featured a story in Nov 2019 on a pack of 15 African wild dogs sleep on plane as they are flown 1,000 miles from South Africa to a new life in Mozambique.  Pilot Raymond Steyn flew 15 African wild dogs to their new life in Mozambique in a light aircraft in a mission of Two charities - The Bateleurs and the Endangered Wildlife Trust – which  hope the dogs will breed in Mozambique

The Mozambican Civil War from 1977 to 1992 wiped out over 70 per cent of the country's animal population.  The charities have transported 60 wild dogs between countries with a '100 per cent safety and success rate'.  This time it was pack of 15 African wild dogs  which slept through a 1,000 mile journey from South Africa to their new life in Mozambique,  lined up neatly next to one another, the family of canines were ideal passengers for the seven-hour journey.   The plane flew the dogs over 1,000 miles from South Africa in the hope of repopulating an animal population decimated by Mozambique's   civil war.   All of them, flown by volunteer pilot Raymond Steyn, made it safely to their new home in Gorongosa National Park, in Mozambique.

The dogs are helping to re-establish a population wiped out during the 1977-1992 civil war, and it's hoped the pack will help boost numbers of just over 6,000 animals across the whole of Africa. Zelda de Keijzer, from The Bateleurs, said there was a strong UK connection with the relocation, thanks to vital support from the Tusk Trust and Rufford Foundation.   Mozambique, with the abundance of plant-eaters in the country, the land is rich for carnivores to return to.  Before being released all the dogs were vaccinated and fitted with VHF and GPS collars to enable them to be monitored.  The Gorongosa National Park has been at the centre of conservation for Mozambique with both the government and the Carr Foundation helping restore the area.  Since 1998 over 200 pilots have flown for The Bateleurs in more than 600 missions in 10 different countries for over 150 beneficiary organisations.

When a volunteer went to   Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park as part of an ambitious wildlife restoration effort, she was happy that  Beira, the alpha female of the pack, had been pregnant when the dogs were set free. She knew that the closely bonded and highly endangered apex predators had dug a maternity den for their queen, and that Beira had spent a lot of time down there — until one day, she didn’t. She and the pack had moved on. As Ms. Bouley was crouching by the abandoned den and peering into the hole, she met the likely answer. A giant African rock python — the continent’s largest species of snake — dropped from a nearby tree, stared her in the face and then slithered off. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
18.09.2020.

 

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