Loving painted wolves

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It is incredible to witness the joyful play among African wild dog packs, but their numbers are a small percentage of what they used to be. After 30 years in the corporate world in London, Nicholas Dyer returned to Africa. Safari News attended the launch of Painted Wolves: A Wild Dog’s Life to find out more about his connection with this endangered species.

Dyer’s journey started in 2011, shortly after he packed up his life in London and headed back to Kenya, where he grew up. He wanted to get back to his roots, and practise photography, and decided to travel through southern and east Africa.

 

Nick Dyer

“I visited as many national parks as I could find, and spoke to conservationists to learn as much as possible. I spent time with communities to get an understanding of how people lived alongside wildlife.”
Dyer avoided Zimbabwe because of the political climate, but was persuaded to go to Mana Pools in 2013. “It felt like paradise. Camps are unfenced and you are allowed to walk on foot – at your own risk,” he says. As a result, animals are slightly more tolerant of humans here than elsewhere. This park offered him the opportunity to get to know the African wild dog, and he tracked and photographed them for six years.
“As a photographer this really fascinated me. You have to show incredible respect to the animals, but you are rewarded with emotional photos,” he says.

His first experience with the wild dogs on foot was with another group, where they spent time watching them hunt. “It was exciting and exhilarating as the dogs were all over the place.

An example of African wild dogs. Photo: David Marneweck

“As far as the dogs were concerned, I didn’t exist. I fell in love.” Dyer soon got to know all the packs.
He also met Peter Blinston, the head of Painted Wolf Conservation. Dyer knew he wanted to help ease the plight of the species and his efforts resulted in the book.

Just 100 years ago, there were 500 000 painted wolves on the African continent. Today there are around 6 500. Apart from natural threats such as lion and hyena, human-wildlife conflict, snaring and roadkill play a major role in their decline. Up until 1978, wild dogs were seen as vermin and money was offered for their body parts.

Dyer hopes to create awareness of the African wild dog through his photography and book. “Nobody outside Africa knows they exist, so lots of work still needs to be done,” he says. All proceeds from book sales go towards Painted Wolf Conservation.

Written by René de Klerk

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