What's the fuss about wild dogs? Well, it is quite a big deal. Wild dogs are endangered, almost disappearing from Tanzania's northern parks. It is easier to find a leopard, cheetah and lion on the same day than a wild dog. These “painted” dogs, roam far and wide covering great distances - here today but gone tomorrow, not to be seen again for months or years.
The recent sighting on Manyara Ranch is very exciting. While the dogs have been seen on several occasions by cattle herders, it is our first sighting since opening our small and exclusive camp in 2010. Wild dogs have also been heard yelping while out hunting, but being elusive and well-camouflaged, catching sight of them is a challenge. Ask anyone where the dogs might be and you will get a blank stare - most people in Africa have never seen one—so yes it's a big deal.
On a peaceful August morning, as we were enjoying breakfast under the acacia trees, we received a message from Alan the camp manager that he had seen wild dogs while on his way to nearby Makuyuni. Finishing breakfast, we piled into two vehicles and headed to where they had been sighted. And there they were—relaxed and un-bothered—4 dogs with a spattering of blood suggesting they had just eaten. In no rush, we could take plenty of pictures—what a treat!
Between 2001 and 2010, while Manyara Ranch was being transformed from Cattle Ranch to Conservancy under African Wildlife Foundation's watchful eye, two different packs were often seen. At least one of these was denning and raising pups. The safety and ready supply of prey for food obviously did the trick. The dogs made their home near the old headquarters on the slopes of the Makuyuni River valley—a great place with a view over the plains below. We hope they have come back to breed again as conditions on the Conservancy are better now than ever.
Manyara Ranch Conservancy incorporates 35,000 of the ranch's total area of almost 45,000 acres. Its a very special project, maintaining open an important wildlife migration corridor between Tarangire National Park and the wildlife areas to the North—Manyara, Ngorongoro, Mtu wa Mbu and Lake Natron Game Controlled areas, Lossimingor Mountain, and more. These are areas through which wildlife transits, moving as far as Kenya's Mara reserve and Amboseli Park, both bordering Tanzania. Increasingly, settlements, roads and cultivation block these migration routes, so the existence of Manyara Ranch and the Conservancy provides an essential lifeline for animals moving to and from the Tarangire ecosystem. The ultimate goal is to ensure that wildlife and tourism can replace commercial farming and cattle herding as a viable source of income for local communities, such that the beauty of the place and its wildlife can coexist with people for generations to come. These are key objectives of Manyara Conservancy and the African Wildlife Foundation.