Our ‘losing’ wild dog Veolia Environnement Photographer Of the Year photograph

Three wild dogs look toward the camera, left and right in a protective pose

I put ‘losing’ in quotes because no submission, no photograph can be counted as a loss. These beautiful wild animals that roam the earth in playful groups, caring for each other and their families, protecting their own species, so animated and enjoyable to watch and so ignored by tourists seeking the ‘big five’ which basically do nothing all day.

I also say ‘losing’ because this triangular family shot was one of our submissions to the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition and were rightly rejected in favour of (amongst 48,000 others!) Kim Wolhuter’s wonderfully graphic and metaphorical shot of species fragmentation visible at http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit-us/whats-on/temporary-exhibitions/wpy/photo.do?photo=2813&category=45&group=3

It needs a bit of back story, and we were privileged to have Kim talk at #wildphotos in London this weekend – I dare say more than a few were in tears at his evocative story of tracking a group of wild dogs, finding them gradually become infected by rabies (likely from tame dogs near the perimeter), and have to put each dog down himself in order to protect the group. Inevitably, this continued until there was only one.

Imagine seeing a family dissolve until there was only one, and then poof, it’s gone.

Imagine seeing a species dissolve until there was only one, and then poof, it’s gone.

Simple things can be done. Vaccinate tame dogs against rabies. Allow enough free range of land to prevent reliance on single areas of food and water which may become risky.

I must be honest: when I went to Kruger last year for the first time since our honeymoon in 2002 (when we had an OK experience) my expectations were that I would perhaps see one or two lions, or leopard; elephant I dearly hoped would be populous (and they were), but two species I knew would be unlikely: rhino and wild dog. Yet we saw all of these species, and many of each, and on the last day were totally surrounded by wild dog on the banks of the road for over an hour, relaxing, playing with each other, ripping an antelope apart (it’s food, remember), and chasing eagles up to the horizon. An incredible privilege.

Imagine seeing a species dissolve until there was only one, and then poof, it’s gone.

Wild dogs are endangered on the IUCN Red List – they estimate *6,000* remaining. Estimates will vary, but we saw 20 around our vehicle in a small area of Kruger. Statistically, that means roughly 299 other packs scattered around Africa – and Africa is big, you know? We could be wrong about our monitoring, but I’m not happy waiting.

There are things you can do:

Donate to African Wildlife Conservation Fund – http://www.africanwildlifeconservationfund.org/

Learn about wild dogs Neil Aldridge’s Underdogs book which includes a donation to African Wildlife Conservation Fund – http://www.conservationphotojournalism.com/awcf.html

Na’ankuse, a group which includes a wildlife sanctuary – http://www.naankuse.com/

Donate to the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust – http://www.bpctrust.org/wild-dog-conservation.asp

Donate to the Endangered Wildlife Trust in SA – http://www.ewt.org.za/

I’m not kidding – in 5 years we will have a major mammalian extinction due to human encroachment. If all we have ready is an apology then we are already on the way to disaster.

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