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The Wild Dogs - Part 1: Rex, Ruby, Ricky and Raine

In May 2005 seven 3-week-old wild dog puppies arrived at AfriCat.

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Rearing five of them to adulthood was a certainly a journey full of trials and tribulations - Sadly we lost two puppies quite early on, but RAINE, RICKY, RUBY, REX and RUFUS kept us on our toes.

One thing that did astound us was the amazing bond the puppies had between them. Even though they were so tiny and there were no adult dogs in their small pack, they only needed us to supply the food . . . . and once that had disappeared (in a matter of milliseconds) they were quite happy with the company and companionship of each other for play and comfort.

Right from the start, RAINE was the alpha female and REX took the position of alpha male.
At 4 months of age we released our small pack into an enclosure and ceased all direct contact. In this enclosure they were taught about the importance of respecting electric fencing (which prevents digging)!

Life had some degree of normality until the age of nine months, but after this age they had many things to contend with.

It started with RUFUS having a Gastric Torsion. This required an emergency trip to the vet and a few worrying weeks while he recovered. For us the most painful part was hearing the other dogs crying and calling for him while he was away. This was the first time one of them had to be separated from the rest of the group.

At 10 months old RICKY fractured one of her legs and the separation once again was heart-wrenching. Apart from REX and  RUFUS having vasectomies (to prevent breeding between the siblings) which required them to be kept apart from the others for a short time, this close-knit group was not separated again.

Another memorable milestone was when the females went on heat for the first time. It was a real shock when the girls turned on each other and started fighting. It took us a while to figure out what was happening and we felt utterly helpless at having to watch these attacks take place without being able to intervene.

In September 2009 we lost RUFUS to Haemorrhagic Gastritis and Congenital Kidney Failure.
We were absolutely devastated as were the rest of the pack who called for their missing sibling for 2 weeks.

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5 years on, almost to the day of their arrival at AfriCat, the dogs were radio-collared, vaccinated and moved to a soft-release enclosure in preparation for their release into the, then, 16 000ha AfriCat|Okonjima Rehabilitation Nature Reserve. This was the first time that all the dogs were darted simultaneously and in spite of worrying about how they were going to react, everything ran smoothly.

However, there was a major change in the dog’s hierarchy when they all recovered from the anaesthetic! RAINE was no longer top dog as RICKI, formerly the underdog, had usurped Raine’s position! This came as a big surprise to us, but in fact this behaviour has been observed in captive wild dog and wolf packs before. REX, now the only male, endorsed this move, immediately stood by Ricki and didn’t leave her side.


The big day dawned and, unlike all the cheetah releases into the reserve, the dogs didn’t hesitate to leave the confines of the enclosure. They followed us out of the gate and just carried on running.
They were closely monitored for the first 3 weeks. AfriCat spent every day, all day from sunrise to sunset following the pack.
It took them nearly a year before they became completely self-sufficient, needing no more assistance from team AfriCat, and we saw them successfully treeing adult male leopards, cornering spotted hyaenas, and terrorising the cheetahs. As a group they feared no other predator.

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AfriCat|Okonjima Wild Dog Fast Facts:

REX: Information on Rex
AGE: (2014) 9 years
WEIGHT: (2010) 26 Kg (2013) 27 Kg
ORIGIN: Okakarara (140 km east of Okonjima)
SIBLINGS / RELATIONS: Ruby, Ricky and Rex.

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Early 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. However, in this case, 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, late afternoon: REX and 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.

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.

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8 Feb 2012: Taken to Otjiwarongo clinic a pin was placed into the (front left) humerus bone. The surgery took over 3 hours! (pinned - not plated)

16 February 2012: Back on the table – wound open and this time the vet came to us! 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.

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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!

13 June 2012: 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.

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10 July 2012: 5 months later - REX, RUBY, RAINE and 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.

December 2014: Rex has been doing well ever since, and is still a main player in the pack dynamics of the team.

rex doing well


RAINE: Information about Raine
GENDER: Female
AGE: (2014) 9 years
WEIGHT: (2010) 29.7 Kg (2013) 30 Kg
ORIGIN: Okakarara (140 km east of Okonjima)
SIBLINGS / RELATIONS: Ruby, Ricky and Rex.


19th of May 2013: Raine was kicked by either zebra or oryx - certainly something with a hard hoof - and the back, left tibia was snapped with 8 fractures.
Dr Tubbesing could not operate on that day - so her leg was strapped-up until we could get her to the clinic in Windhoek (220 km's from Okonjima).

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22 May 2013:  finally she was operated on and a plate with 13 pins was attached to anything it could hold onto, to stabilise the bone.
We separated her from the group and placed her in a small, soft release area bordering the park so that her siblings could spend time near her but she moved around too much and the plate snapped.
She was again taken to Windhoek - on the 20 June 2013 and bone was taken from her hip to strengthen the break. However, the plate snapped a 2nd time and she was once again rushed to Windhoek on the 1st July 2013!

A shorter and thicker plate was inserted this time, again by Dr Tubbesing - who donated his time and effort - but it was not easy for there was very little skin to cover the thicker plate. A decision was made to keep her with her group in the smaller enclosure for at least 6 weeks, until it had recovered properly. We were hopeful that she would recover faster if we kept them together, as she would not be tempted to move around so much.
Rex, Ruby and Ricky were all placed back into captivity to support their sister!

15 Aug 2013: All released back into the wild!


RICKY: Information about Ricky
GENDER: Female
AGE: (2014) 9 years
WEIGHT: (2010) 24 Kg (2013) 27,6 Kg
ORIGIN: Okakarara (140 km east of Okonjima)
SIBLINGS / RELATIONS: Ruby, Raine and Rex.

Still leader of the pack and since she fractured her leg at 10 months old and had to be separated from her siblings, she’s been going strong ever since.

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RUBY killed: 7 January 2014 – Kicked in the head during a giraffe hunt. Siblings spent 3 days lying at her side, before moving away.

dead baby girafferuby killed



The costs are enormous - and if it was not for Dr Tubessing's pro-bono work during the 2nd and 3rd operation of Raine - AfriCat would have had to think twice before spending this amount of money on the wild dogs.
However, they are important to us because:
- The pack is very small and every member is needed, especially because REX only has 3 legs and RAINE is one of the dominant hunters in the group! Without her - the group might well be in trouble.
- AfriCat has raised these pups since they were 2 - 3 wks old, which means we have already spent a great deal of time and money to ensure their survival , despite them being buried alive and their whole family poisoned.


Here is a list of how your donations can really make a difference for AfriCat:

N$50 food for 1 day for a cheetah, leopard or lion
N$250 food for 1 week for a cheetah, leopard or lion
N$250 weekend stay for 1 student at our Environmental Education Programme

N$3,000 VHF-radio collar for a cheetah or a leopard for tracking and research purposes
N$10,000 covers 1 serious veterinary procedure
N$10,000 2 trail cameras (white flash) for the Namibian African Wild Dog Project
N$25,000 GPS-Satellite collar for 1 lion for the AfriCat Hobatere Lion Research Project
N$40,000 building of 1 stock-kraal to protect cattle and goats for 1 village for our Live Stock Protection Programme.


Support AfriCat’s Wild Dogs:

Adopt a carnivore in the Okonjima Nature Reserve

Ways you can support AfriCat


Namibia African Wild Dog Project:

Namibia African Wild dog Project

NAWDP Update 2014

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In 2013 AfriCat, N/a’an ku sê and the Namibian Nature Foundation (NNF) joined forces into the Namibia African Wild Dog Project to study the persecuted wild dogs of the Greater Mangetti Complex in north eastern Namibia.
This project is desperately needed, because nobody really knows how many wild dogs Namibia has and where they are and without such vital information we cannot implement the Namibian National Conservation Plan for this specially protected species.

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What we Have Discovered So Far:
We have used Trail Cameras to monitor waterholes in the area for wild dog activity and, so far, have found five separate packs which move in the 200,000 hectares area. The dogs move between a para-statal cattle ranch, private game and cattle farms, communal land and the newly proclaimed Mangetti National Park.
These are very dangerous areas to be a wild dog, because there is very little game on this land, and an increasing number of cattle. This invariably means that the wild dogs are more likely to catch cattle, which pitches them into direct conflict with people . . .

Local cattle guards found two wild dog dens, which we were then able to monitor using camera traps. An encouraging number of pups survived the first 4 months of denning this year. They have now left their dens, and will not den again until the middle of next year.
The next phase of the project will be to collar one wild dog in each pack with a satellite collar. This will allow us to monitor their movements, how far they travel ,what territories each pack occupies, and the conflicts in which they become involved.


We plan to start this phase over the denning season next year (2015).

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