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Preserving the Pack – Vodacom Red Wild Dogs Experience

The African wild dog is southern Africa’s most endangered carnivore and faces numerous threats to its survival.

In June, Vodacom Red and the Vodacom Bulls rugby team joined up with SANParks, the State Veterinary Authority and the EWT (Endangered Wildlife Trust) to observe first-hand what is being done to ensure the species is given the best chance to flourish.

The wild dog is a highly social animal where teamwork is the name of the game when it comes to pack dynamics as well as hunting for prey.

A little known fact is that the African wild dog has the highest successful hunting rate of all carnivores with close to 80% of hunts being successful.

The parallels that can be drawn between the wild dog pack and the Vodacom Bulls rugby team are obvious. Without teamwork, structure and persistence neither entity would be successful.

For the Vodacom Red Wild Dogs Experience, seven Vodacom Red clients and their partners, together with Vodacom Bulls coach John Mitchell and players Lood de Jager and Trevor Nyakane, were given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to accompany EWT as they tracked the wild dogs in the Kruger National Park in order to collar and vaccinate them.

The experience started with lucky Red clients being flown in to Skukuza Airport and embarking on an afternoon game drive with the purpose of locating wild dog packs for the next day.

After the enjoyable drive of spotting wildlife, guests were shuttled to the Sabi River Sun, which played host to the tour group for the 3-day duration of the experience.

That evening, the Vodacom Red clients were given a glimpse into the workings of the Vodacom Bulls and just how similar their values and traits are to the wild dog pack.

Mitchell explained how, much like the wild dog pack, the Bulls rely on speed, cohesion and structure to run down their opposition and ultimately attain success.

Another important similarity between the two, is the way that the sick/injured members are nurtured back to full health in order to once again best serve the group, a rare occurrence in the African wild.

Day 2 started with a 6am game drive with the specific goal of locating a wild dog pack. While on route, the Vodacom Red tour group received a huge surprise when the State Vet radioed in to say he had just come across an elephant, which had been caught in a hunter’s snare not too far away.

After getting to the scene, Vodacom clients watched as the stricken elephant was darted, the snare removed and the leg wound treated and disinfected. It was the most unexpected of highlights and left guests smiling knowing that a precious life had been saved.

Once the adrenaline had subsided, the tracking of the wild dogs continued and that afternoon a pack was found.

A female dog was identified and expertly darted before the animal’s collar was checked, the dog vaccinated and tissue samples taken which were to be sent away to check for any disease.

The day ended with much deserved sundowners at Skukuza golf course and braai with SANParks officials deep in the Kruger bushveld.

The remote location was the perfect platform for the rangers to share their wildlife knowledge and explain the different star constellations that could be seen in the brilliantly lit-up starry sky.

Day 3, and it was time for the Vodacom Red guests to leave for home after the goals set for the Vodacom Red Wild Dogs Experience were achieved.

Each Vodacom Red client received a book on the African Wild Dog, which was personally signed by John Mitchell with the appropriate message “Thanks for being part of the pack.” A reminder of just what can be achieved by a group when working together.

The flight from Skukuza afforded Red clients some time to reflect on an experience that deeply touched all involved and highlighted the great work being done by both SANParks and EWT to ensure the legacy of the African wild dog lives on and these magnificent animals can be admired and enjoyed by the generations to come.

This article was published in partnership with Vodacom.

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Preserving the Pack – Vodacom Red Wild Dogs Experience