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Rex, Ruby, Raine and Ricky

rex with amputated legrex's x-ray

Although Okonjima is best known for its work with cheetah and leopard, an unexpected request for help in 2005 saw the AfriCat Foundation offer protection to a group of orphaned Wild Dogs.

The puppies were found buried in an abandoned warthog hole on a farm where their mother and the rest of their family were killed by the local farmers, due to them preying on local livestock. Originally, seven pups were handed over to AfriCat (by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism), but due to illness, two didn’t survive. The remaining five were successfully hand-reared by painstakingly feeding them every two hours according to their weight.

At 4 months old, the other 5 pups were released into a secure enclosure to prevent direct contact with people. The 2 males were Vasectomized at 2 years of age, so that there was no chance for them to breed as they were siblings after all, and it is illegal in Namibia to breed with captive large carnivores. A double fence was erected around their enclosure as wild dogs are susceptible to other canine diseases such as Rabies, Distemper and the Parvo-virus, carried by other members of the dog family such as jackals and bat-eared foxes.

Rufus, nick-named ‘Mouse’, died in September 2009. The post mortem established congenital kidney failure and he had developed gastritis. That left Rex, nick-named ‘Spot’, as the only male in the group of siblings.

The group was then moved to a new 5ha area called ‘Alcatraz’, far from daily human activity so that they would start adapting to a larger, more remote area and also hopefully start forgetting that man is something you walk up to when in need of a meal!

In the wild, the Wild Dog is one of the most effective pack-hunters in Africa, but this is a learned behaviour which is alien to Okonjima's pack. Understandably, the AfriCat team was both nervous and curious about developments.

The wild dogs were darted in June 2010 for the radio-collar-fittings and a general health check, when vaccinations were administered before their release into the Okonjima Reserve; once they had recovered from the anaesthetic there was a major change in the dogs’ hierarchy - Raine was no longer ‘top dog’ and Ricki, formerly the underdog, had usurped Raine’s position. This came as a big surprise to us, but this behaviour has been observed in captive wild dog packs before. Spot, now the only male, immediately stood by Ricki and didn’t leave her side.

The four dogs were released on 9. 11. 2010 and this happy day was experienced by all of the guests present on Okonjima and the UK, TV channel, ITV. By that afternoon, they had already chased a family of warthogs, who disappeared into an aardvark hole. The next morning they were observed taking down their first kill, a kudu cow!

Clearly, their hunting instinct was still intact after so many years in captivity!

 

REX’S STROKE OF BAD LUCK:


wilddog snareEarly October 2011: We were devastated when one of our Okonjima Guides discovered a snare around REX'S neck! More than 40% of animals caught in snares are ‘non-target’ captures, meaning they are not the animal wanted by the poacher!!! Animals caught in snares face slow, painful deaths and, in Africa, snares kill thousands of animals every year. The snare was safely removed and Rex was luckily unharmed!

Mid November 2011: - REX was seen favouring his back, left leg? The hip-bone had become prominent and he was often seen running on only 3 legs, but seemed to keep up.

End January 2012: The 16 000ha Okonjima, private Reserve, became 20 000ha! All 4 dogs were immediately seen marking their new territory and they were venturing into new areas every day.

Then on the 7th of February 2012: REX & Co were discovered at a baby giraffe kill - REX limping badly. A giraffe kick, most probably, with force - hitting the ‘humerus’ bone half-way between the left shoulder and the elbow. He was immediately darted and rushed to Otjiwarongo where a pin was placed into the humerus bone by Dr Axel Hartmann. The surgery took over 3 hours!

All 4 dogs moved back into Alcatraz (the 5ha, soft-release enclosure within the 20 000ha reserve) and REX was given a smaller, temporary home, separated from his 3 siblings, but within the 5ha enclosure for the next 6 weeks, whilst recovering from his injury.

wilddog amputation

16 February 2012: Back on the table – wound open! We suspected that he had been licking it so much that all the stitches had come out. We also discovered that REX had broken 3 of his 4 canines – trying to escape from the smaller enclosure.

Middle March 2012: A German film crew documented the veterinary examination where X-rays of REX’S leg were taken, while the Perivoli Okonjima Country School children looked on and learnt all about the plight of the Wild Dog. The outcome: Rex’s leg was not completely healed.

31 MAY 2012: REX was driven back into Otjiwarongo as it was time to see how the bone had healed; good news! The pin was finally taken out!

 

wilddog xrays with the Perilvoli school children watching13 June: Rex’s leg seemed infected again. Dr Gerhard Steenkamp and Dr Adrian Tordiffe discover that the bone had broken once again, at the same spot. After a long discussion and the pro’s and cons of bone-grafts and another lengthy period of isolation were discussed in detail. A decision was then made to amputate.

10 July 2012: 5 months later - REX, RUBY, RAINE & RICKY were finally released back in the wild, after the accident in early February.
What a beautiful morning when our OKONJIMA guests, the KUONI Campers and the PAWS volunteers - all came to witness their release.

 17 July 2012: REX and his 3 sisters caught their first kill since their release on 10 JULY - a baby Oryx. Is Rex holding the pack back?? We'll have to keep a closer eye . . . but when this news letter went to print – all 4 were doing well and although they are separated from each other at times – they seem to regroup by the end of the day.

 

For more information about the 4 AfriCat Wild Dogs see:

Facebook: The AfriCat Wild Dogs

Facebook: The Annual Africat Health and Dental Examinations

 

 

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