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The Wild Dogs - Part 2: Team FIFA and The Wild Dog Management Plan 2014 / 2015


wild dog pups messi robin jogirobin yawning messi middle jogiwild dog team fifawild dog yogi puppy teethyogi neck wound

Our three 'painted dog' pups - Jogi, Messi and Robin from the Okakarara region, (approx 100km from AfriCat HQ), arrived at AfriCat on the evening of 14th of July 2014.
We estimated their age between 5 to 6 weeks old. They were found abandoned and in poor condition, together with 6 other puppies that unfortunately were found dead by the time Jogi Messi and Robin were rescued. These 3 orphaned African Wild Dog puppies were handed over to the M.E.T (Ministry of Environment and Tourism), by the local community, who had found them after their pack had apparently been poisoned and shot.

The surviving pups – two males and one female - looked skinny and emaciated when they were given into the care of AfriCat. The males both had deep incisions around their neck suggesting that they had been tied-up with a piece of wire before they were brought to the M.E.T offices. This also suggested that they had probably been in close contact with domestic dogs, and as they often serve as transmitters of diseases like rabies, parvovirus or canine distemper . . . . this was very worrying.


The exposure to infectious diseases has contributed to the threatened status of the African Wild Dog, which have been classified as "Endangered" on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in the past.
Tanzania is one of the few protected ecosystems in Africa that is able to support a viable population of wild dogs, especially within the Serengeti National Park. However, these areas are also affected by outbreaks of the rabies virus (RV) and canine distemper virus (CDV). The 'fluid boundary' between national park and villages facilitates the close contact between wildlife and domestic pets and thus, increases the threat of disease transmissions. Domestic dogs have been identified as the major source of the RV and CDV - both of which cause significant mortality in wild carnivore populations, as well as posing a serious threat to humans. An outbreak of CDV in 1994 killed more than 1000 lions in the Serengeti, and was also responsible for the death of approximately 50 wild dogs within two months in 2000. Preventative vaccination programs are in place for domestic dogs and cats which live around the national park in an attempt to prevent the further spread of these diseases.

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Left Messi, Right Jogi.
messi wilddog
robin wilddog

ROBIN, the slightly smaller female did not have injuries around her neck, but she developed a large abscess on her right hind leg on day 2, which had to be cleaned twice a day.
MESSI was also was treated for diarrhoea. All 3 pups had temperatures over 39 deg C , whilst the males’ rose over 40 deg C at times. After treating them with the long-term antibiotic, 'convenia' - their temperatures stabilized quickly. Their wounds slowly closed and have completely healed today. According to the 3 vets who were on 24hr standby to give us advice and direction, wild dogs are always in a critical phase until they pass 12 – 15 weeks of age!

After spending the first two months, close to the office and clinic complex at the AfriCat’s Care Centre in a semi-open holding facility, our three dogs finally moved into a bigger enclosure mid September, after receiving their first vaccinations against rabies and canine distemper. This new area provided enough space and room for their increasing level of activity.

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Although little ROBIN was 4.2 kg, she was still considerably smaller than her brothers who surpassed her easily by 2 kg. However, she had managed to almost double her weight within a few weeks.
Then another problem arose . . . she was losing parts of her fur - especially around the neck, belly and hips. We were not sure what caused that loss of hair since the fur of her two brothers was growing beautifully. In domestic puppies hair loss can be caused by something as simple as heavy shedding or by more serious causes such as disease, parasites, allergies, stress, an unbalanced diet and vitamin deficiencies. We treated all three puppies against mange – a skin disease caused by parasitic mites that results in hair loss, bald spots, scabbing and sores in dogs – and additionally changed their diet by adding more essential fatty acids. Since doing all of this, her condition has improved significantly and her hair is growing back nicely.

In the meanwhile JOGI was causing us some more concern:
In the beginning of September he was observed with a serious limp in his right hind leg, such that he was only using 3 legs. He was treated with an anti-inflammatory analgesic and was examined to find possible causes, but neither exterior nor interior injuries could be determined. Despite his limp, he did not show any signs of weakness or a decreased level of activity. His condition clearly improved, but a slight instability was still visible and so we decided to take him for X-rays to find the cause behind his wobbling walking. To make the 50 km trip to Otjiwarongo easier, Jogi was slightly sedated for the transport. The X-ray showed some thickening of the bone in the middle of his tibia. For comparison, another X-ray was taken of the healthy hind leg, which revealed a site where the leg had broken previously. His limp was first noticed in the first week of September. Despite a slight mal-alignment that will improve over time, as he grows and lays down more bone, the fracture has healed well by itself.

We are not sure what caused the break, but it is possible that it occurred because the bones of all the puppies were weaker than they should have been. This is often the case in hand-reared carnivores, and is mostly due to an insufficient diet. In the wild, pups are given regurgitated meat that contains essential enzymes and pro-biotic bacteria which enhance the digestive and absorptive capabilities of the pup. This can be difficult to artificially supply to hand-reared pups, and therefore their diet suffers as a result.

jogi     Jogi


Currently our pups’ diet consists of a mix of minced chicken necks, minced game meat, high quality pup food, fat, eggs as well as calcium supplement and is alternately enhanced by liver and fresh meat and bones.


The pups are now about 7.5 months old (Dec 2014) and on the 2 December were released into a larger, 3ha enclosure that is connected to their current camp. This new area will give them the opportunity to slowly acclimatize to their natural habitat and vegetation, and also to the electrical fencing. (important as it prevents them digging beneath the fences)

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In the long term we hope that we can unite Okonjima’s new generation of wild dogs with our existing pack in the 20 000ha reserve? What the chances are that Rex, Ricky and Raine will actually accept new members into their pack - we are not 100% sure? Only a few studies have tried to artificially integrate unrelated wild dogs into an existing pack.

Theory says the smaller the pack, the better the chances there are that the additional members will be recruited. Pack augmentation produces a wide range of benefits such as reproduction, improved foraging efficiency and pack and individual persistence. Due to the fact that our existing pack has only three members, we are hoping that the chances of them accepting our three orphans may be quite good. We shall see.

Our goal to integrate them, will take place next year when Jogi, Messi and Robin are older, and considered to be Yearlings (10 - 18 months). Until then, they will stay in the care of AfriCat and act as Ambassadors for their species for our visitors to AfriCat’s Carnivore Care Centre.

Projects involving the integration of 2 different 'packs' have only taken place between orphaned pups and an established family which have existing pups of their own.
One study reported successful integration of an adult female with her three pups (3 months old) into an existing pack (2 males, 2 females). It was suggested that the augmentation of this relatively small incoming pack size was helped along by the benefits to their overall ability to forage and survive. The two separate groups were first kept in a holding enclosure (80x65m) that was separated by a fence for about 6 months. The fence was removed a month prior to release because the dogs kept digging beneath it. For the integration of our own 2 packs, it is important that the fencing we use is 'digging-proof' , as studies show that serious injury or death can result from inter group clashes.


"There is some chance that your adult sibling group might adopt the younger pups, but in my experience, wild dogs that have been raised in captivity behave very differently from wild dogs that have had a normal upbringing (meaning naturally, in the wild).
Any wild dog that has been brought up naturally by other adult wild dogs will have had experience as a yearling helping to raise pups (usually their younger siblings) in their natal pack. This experience is gained with the supervision of the parents of the pups, so any misbehaviour gets reprimanded and corrected very quickly. So, while at least part of the natural desire to care for young pups is innate, there is clearly a certain amount that must be learned. There is some evidence from the North American captive zoo population that bad mothers (those that fail to care for pups properly, sometimes killing them all) are females that never had the chance to be a helper and assist a more experienced mother raise a litter before being in a position to raise her own. In light of this, and that your sibling group of adults were raised in captivity, I suspect there is a good chance they will not respond in the typical way that I expect wild reared dogs to when presented with unknown pups (for adoption).
I think your suggestion to present them but keep them isolated by an enclosure is sensible, and might allow you to observe the response of the adult group to the pups and evaluate whether there appears to be aggression or extreme interest. From there, it will be a gamble as to whether to release them together.”
Tico McNutt - Botswana


After weeks of intensive care and overcoming obstacles in their early lives, our pups have grown into beautiful and active young dogs.

Their names are all associated with the 2014 World Cup. JOGI - the bigger and more dominant of the two males, is proudly named after the German coach Joachim "JOGI" LÖW. Male # 2 is named after LIONEL MESSI, the Argentine footballer and star player of the FC Barcelona. Our female, ROBIN, derived her name from a combo, honouring the Dutch player ARJEN ROBBEN (slightly varied in the spelling) and the very brilliant, ROBIN VAN PERSIE . . .



What Is Canine Distemper?
Canine distemper is a virus that affects a dog’s respiratory, gastrointestinal and central nervous systems, as well as the conjunctival membranes of the eye.

What Are the General Symptoms of Canine Distemper?
The first signs of canine distemper include sneezing, coughing and thick mucus coming from the eyes and nose. Fever, lethargy, sudden vomiting and diarrhea, depression and/or loss of appetite are also symptoms of the virus.

How Do Dogs Get Canine Distemper?
The virus is passed from dog to dog through direct contact with fresh urine, blood or saliva. Sneezing, coughing and sharing food and water bowls are all possible ways for the virus to be passed on.

When Is it Time to See the Vet?
Immediately! Please see your vet right away if you suspect your dog has been infected with the canine distemper virus. The virus spreads rapidly and must be aggressively treated as soon as it’s discovered.

How Is Canine Distemper Diagnosed?
Canine distemper tests do exist, but the results alone are not always reliable. Rather than just testing for the infection, your vet has to look at the whole picture, including a dog’s specific symptoms and health history. Positive results can help confirm an infection, but a dog can still be infected even if test results are negative.

Which Dogs Are Prone to Canine Distemper?
Puppies and adolescent dogs who have not been vaccinated are most vulnerable to the distemper virus. They are typically rescues with unknown vaccination histories or have been bought from pet stores.
Serious infections are most often seen in puppies or adolescent dogs. Puppies younger than seven weeks, born to mothers who haven’t been vaccinated against the virus, are extremely susceptible. Once infected, puppies are severely weakened. Often the virus travels to the brain, causing seizures, shaking and trembling. A weakened immune system leaves an infected dog open to secondary infections like pneumonia.

How Can Canine Distemper Be Prevented?
Make sure your dog has completed his series of vaccinations. The vaccine for dogs is called the distemper shot. If you have a puppy, make sure he gets his first vaccination at six to eight weeks of age. Be sure to keep him away from any possibly infectious dogs or environments until he’s finished with his vaccinations at four or five months old.
Also, routine cleaning and disinfecting your home (or kennel) will ensure that the virus is not in your dog’s living environment.

How Can Canine Distemper Be Treated?
There is currently no available medication that can destroy the virus that causes canine distemper. Rather, supportive care is the mainstay of treatment. Veterinarians can offer intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration and antibiotics to ward off secondary infections while the infected dog builds up his immune response. Some dogs are able to survive the infection, while for others canine distemper can be fatal.

Are There Lasting Health Issues?
Dogs who recover from canine distemper may have seizures or other central nervous system disorders that may not show up until many years later—sometimes in their old age. They may also be left with permanent brain and nerve damage, and these symptoms also may not show up until years later.


Canine Distemper Outbreaks Additional Threat to African Wild Dogs!
The African wild dog (Lycaon pictus), also called Cape hunting or painted dog, has been extirpated from large parts of its former range. In recent years exposure to diseases from domestic dogs, largely due to human encroachment in the areas close to the parks, has added to the threats this endangered species faces.

Lions, jackals and foxes have also been lost to canine distemper, adding to concerns that this domestic dog disease be controlled. Pet vaccination programs, especially in areas close to African national parks have the potential to reduce the risk of further canine distemper outbreaks.

The African wild dog is not the only species affected by the presence of canine distemper virus. In 1978, black-backed jackals (Canis mesomelas) and bat-eared foxes (Otocyon megalotis) in the Serengeti and Masai Mara National Parks suffered from an outbreak of this dog disease. In 1994, a distemper outbreak in the same area affected lions (Panthera leo) in the same African national park systems.

In both outbreaks a link was made to domestic dogs kept as pets as the likely source of the disease. A distemper epidemic in Namibia’s black-backed jackals between 2001 and 2003 was also linked to exposure to domestic dogs.

As human populations in African wild dog habitat grow, those wild dogs will have increased risk of exposure to domestic dog diseases. Finding, capturing and safely vaccinating African wild dogs can be difficult. Vaccinating pets in the area is a simpler, more cost effective way to reduce risk to all African predatory species that are susceptible to dog diseases.

Companion animal vaccination programs have the added benefit of protecting local human population from exposure to dog diseases, including rabies. Vaccination programs can also be a catalyst for educating people about the value of African wild dogs and other susceptible wild animals found locally, potentially reducing human–animal conflict with native species.

The cheetah's low density may offer some measure of protection against infectious disease; for example, cheetahs were not affected by an outbreak of Canine Distemper Virus in the Serengeti National Park which killed over 1/3 of the lion population.



Wild Dog Management Plan 2014 | 2015

This management plan outlines the history and future management of the six wild dogs currently on the farm Okonjima (farm nr. 128) as well as The AfriCat Foundation’s policy for any future wild dogs that may be rehabilitated by the organisation.
This plan is formulated along the guidelines set out in the:

  • Regional conservation strategy for cheetah and African wild dog in Southern Africa (IUCN/SCC 2007)
  • Namibian Captive Wild Dog (Lycon pictus) Management Plan (2011) final report from the Workshop held 5-6 October 2011 in Windhoek, Namibia
  • National Conservation Action Plan for the wild dog in Namibia (2013 Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Government of Namibia Draft copy available 20 Oct 2014).

History Of AfriCat's Wild Dogs

Older Dogs

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In May 2005 AfriCat received seven, 3–4 week-old wild dog pups from Okakarara, Otjozondjupa Region where the rest of the pack had been poisoned. The pups had been buried alive and dug out by a Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) agricultural extension officer and then handed over to AfriCat. They were in a critical condition at the time and two died soon afterwards, five were reared to adulthood.

Reintroduction to the farm of origin was impossible as the communal farmers of that area were not tolerant of wild dogs. When the pups were four months old, all direct contact with humans was stopped, except for veterinary emergencies. One dog was treated for gastric torsion and one for a leg fracture. The males were vasectomised when approximately 15 months old. In 2009, one dog died from haemorrhagic gastritis and congenital kidney failure.

In the same year, the dogs were prepared for introduction into the then, 16 000 ha private rehabilitation Nature Reserve on Okonjima by relocating them to a 5ha enclosure, 7 km from AfriCat’s Carnivore Care Centre, which borders the park. In May 2010, the dogs were vaccinated against rabies, canine distemper, and corona, para-influenza and parvo viruses, and they were fitted with collars for tracking. A change in hierarchy among the females was observed at this time. The dogs were released into the reserve on 9 September 2010. They were closely monitored for three weeks and assisted when hunting was not successful. They took nearly 8–10 months before becoming completely independent. We suspect that this was due to a weak leader and no pack example to teach them how to hunt. In November 2011 the Okonjima Reserve was enlarged from 16 000 to 20 000 ha.

In 2012 one dog had a front leg amputated as a result of being kicked by a giraffe. In 2013 one dog sustained a multiple leg fracture, which healed successfully after a protracted healing process. All the wild dogs were confined to a small enclosure for six weeks during both healing processes. One of the other dogs has since died (Jan 2014) from a head injury sustained during a giraffe hunt.

AfriCat therefore has three adult wild dogs; two females and one male. The male has one front limb amputated. One dog is collared with a VHF collar and they are monitored by Okonjima guides, viewed by tourists from vehicles or on foot and are used as ambassadors for the species for the AfriCat Environmental Education Programme. They are also ambassadors of the free ranging wild dogs of the Namibia African Wild Dog Project, a research and conservation project in the Mangetti Cattle Ranch with which AfriCat is involved, in conjunction with N/a'an ku sê Foundation and NNF. The dogs are self-sufficient hunters.

The Namibian African Wild Dog Project.

Wild Dog Project Update 2014


Younger Wild Dog Pups

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On the 14th July 2014 AfriCat was requested by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) to collect three orphaned wild dog pups (two male and one female) from Okakarara. They had been handed over to MET by community members. The three pups had been found with six other dead pups.

The pups recovered under the care of the AfriCat team. They were initially housed in a semi-open holding facility at the AfriCat headquarters’ Carnivore Care Centre for two months. After that they were moved to a larger open camp with reduced human contact. Before being moved to the new camp the pups were vaccinated with Recombitek C4/CV (against canine distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus, coronavirus and parainfluenza virus) and Rabisin (against rabies)

The present camp consists of two (10 m x 20 m) enclosures fenced with jackal-proof fencing. The ground is cleared and shelter is in the form of shade cloth around the fences, areas shaded with shade cloth and an artificial den. Environmental enrichment includes tyres, logs, bones, a small concrete bathing/drinking pool and introduction of different parts of fresh carcasses. One male pup sustained a tibial fracture, which healed without incident.

The pups have minimal human contact with AfriCat staff. On 2 December 2014, the 3 puppies were released into a 3ha enclosure to acclimatize to their natural habitat and vegetation.


Management Plan

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Older Dogs
The adult dogs will continue to be viewed by guests at Okonjima. They will be monitored closely to assess their condition and hunting success, especially the individual that has had his leg amputated. Human intervention in terms of veterinary care or supplemental feeding will be considered if the decision is made that the welfare of the dogs would be compromised without it. An attempt will be made to introduce the pups to the older dogs at a later stage. Details of this plan can be found below.

Younger Pups
The pups are being prepared for rehabilitation to the Okonjima Nature Reserve.

Short Term

The pups will be housed in their present enclosure as the first step of their rehabilitation. When the pups are acclimatised to natural vegetation and have learned to avoid electric fencing, they will be moved to a larger (5 ha) fenced rehabilitation camp bordering the 20 000 ha Okonjima Game Reserve in order to prepare them for release into the reserve.

Introduction to Older Dogs

The older wild dogs may interact with the pups if they approach the rehabilitation enclosure while the pups are housed there. Interaction between the dogs and the pups (across an electrified fence) will be encouraged by attracting the older dogs to the rehabilitation camp with the use of dragged bait and wild dog calls. The rehabilitation camp may be divided in two, in order to enclose the adult dogs in close proximity to the pups. The behaviour of the dogs and pups will be closely monitored during these interactions to assess whether the older dogs could possibly incorporate the pups into their pack.

Long Term

If the interaction between the pups and the adult dogs is promising, the two groups will be acclimatised until an encounter between the groups without a fence between them will pose as little threat to any of the dogs as possible. If both groups accept each other they will be enclosed in the rehabilitation camp together and later released. We believe that this will be the best possible scenario for the continued rehabilitation and welfare of the pack.

If the existing pack is antagonistic towards the pups, repeated introductions between the two groups will continue under different conditions until either the dogs accept each other or we decide that the groups cannot be safely combined.

If a safe combination of the packs is impossible, the pups will be rehabilitated without the adults. They will then either be released onto the reserve separately from the existing pack, in an area far from the pack’s home range, or retained in an area separated from the older dogs by electrified fences. If the new pups cannot immediately be released onto the Okonjima Game Reserve they will be released at a later stage. It is AfriCat’s policy not to allow these pups to remain in captivity longer than strictly necessary.

Before release, the male dogs will be vasectomised and all three collared with radio collars. After release, the dogs will be monitored intensely by AfriCat and Okonjima staff and viewed by guests as ambassadors for the species.


Possible Constraints to AfriCat’s Plan
It may be impossible to introduce the pups to the older pack without conflict. Even after successful introduction and release together, intra pack fighting may still be fatal to some dogs. This may be exacerbated because despite our best efforts all the dogs were raised in an artificial manner without the supervision of adult wild dogs.

We feel that a pack of three is too small to function as a wild dog pack. The older dogs, although independent and successful hunters are not as successful as a larger pack would be. The pups may find it difficult to develop their hunting skills as such a small unit if they are forced to do so alone.  

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Justification for keeping Wild Dogs on Okonjima

The AfriCat foundation raised the older wild dogs from pups and successfully introduced them into the Okonjima Game Reserve, where they have become self-sufficient hunters. The foundation is fully equipped in term of facilities and staff to continue to raise orphaned members of this endangered species and to provide for their continued welfare.

In the process of raising the older dogs and preparing them for release, AfriCat was able to build on the current knowledge of how to successfully raise and rehabilitate this species. We were able to safely use electric fencing to enclose wild dogs, this was previously not believed to be possible. We have improved the diet for pups and been able to monitor successful healing of bone fractures in both pups and adults. For two years we have been able to monitor the successful hunting of a three legged wild dog.

The wild dogs play an important role in the ecology of Okonjima Game Reserve. The interaction between predator and prey species is being researched to determine viable stocking densities and the viability of keeping predators in a functional game farm. The 200 km2 Okonjima Game Reserve can accommodate a pack of approximately five to seven wild dogs according to specialists who took into consideration prey density, species and park size.

The rehabilitated wild dogs are a popular attraction for visitors to Okonjima, which helps to raise funds for The AfriCat Foundation. At the same time, the dogs function as ambassadors for the species, creating awareness for the plight of wild dogs in Namibia and the rest of Africa. They are also ambassadors for the Namibian African Wild Dog Project, an ongoing research project on the free-ranging wild dogs of Namibia and a collaboration between the N/a'an ku sê Foundation, the Namibian Nature Foundation and The AfriCat Foundation.

The Wild Dogs are also ambassadors of the species to the participants of the AfriCat Environmental Education Program which provides an opportunity for both children and adults to learn more about Namibia’s carnivores, the threats facing them and solutions to conflicts between people and wildlife.

The AfriCat Environmental Education Programme

Environmental Education

Many Namibians have never had the opportunity to see a wild dog and viewing them in their natural habitat helps foster an appreciation for this misunderstood species.

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