The translocation of Rory
As the son of Stellar, the charismatic alpha female Wild Dog on South Africa’s Venetia Limpopo Nature Reserve, Rory has come from good stock. The problem is that following the unexpected deaths of the two other males in his pack, Abel and Baker, Rory recently became the only possible mate if his mother Stellar was to bear a litter of pups again.
With just a few hundred African Wild Dogs left in South Africa, if Rory were to mate with Stellar it would fly in the face of conservation efforts to build a genetically viable population. So the decision was made to dart Rory and to move him to another reserve to start a new pack. Rory would then be replaced at Venetia by males brought in from Botswana…creating two breeding packs in the process.
The Venetia dogs were moved into a boma (a large enclosure) to make the darting and translocation process easier. This will also allow the pack to be monitored closely when the females are introduced to the new boys from over the border.
The morning of 17 February was overcast. A good sign as it meant Rory would be less likely to overheat during his long journey to KwaZulu-Natal. But he had to be darted first…surely a straight-forward task in a fenced area with strategically-positioned bait? You’d think so.
Five darts and five long hours later and Rory finally went to ground under the influence of the tranquiliser drug. The team of vets and researchers went straight to work removing the darts, disinfecting the dart wounds and removing his radio collar.
After being doused with water to keep him cool, Rory was placed in a crate, loaded onto the back of a Land Rover and driven the 900km’s to his new home.
Sure, this kind of intervention can sometimes be stressful for animals but when we as humans have driven a species like the African Wild Dog to the margins of existence, it’s a good thing there are people prepared to sit and be bitten by mosquito’s in 35 degree heat for five hours and then drive 900km’s just to give an animal a fighting chance of survival.