A classroom full of WCC supporters braved the showers last night and boy was it worth it! Dr. Gregory Rasmussen, founder and director of the Painted Dog Conservation Project (PDC), delivered an educational and inspirational lecture about his life’s passion, the African Painted Dog. Painted Dogs, also known as African Wild Dogs, are unique to Africa and they are among the continent’s most endangered species. For MILLIONS of years this unique predator thrived throughout most of the continent. Over the past few centuries, however, painted dogs were persecuted so heavily that by the mid-1900’s most African countries were void of this beautiful canid. In the 1970s, as few as 300 or so dogs were struggling to survive with resilient populations only living in and around a handful of African National Parks.
Over the past twenty years, the PDC has made great strides on behalf of the organization’s namesake. The dog population has increased considerably and in 2004 the species received threatened status. The PDC’s most remarkable achievements, however, have benefitted not only this rare species, but also the communities that surround the habitat that the dogs require. The PDC works closely with the local communities in Zimbabwe to educate people about the importance of healthy painted dog populations and to employ conservation methods that provides great opportunities for the local citizens.
One very successful program has been the PDC’s Art Center. Snare wire art is an example of how creativity, education, and conservation can work hand in hand. Snare wire takes the lives of many dogs every year. The PDC’s anti-poaching units work in collaboration with the Zimbabwe Parks Wildlife Management Authority to reclaim thousands of these deadly wires from the bush and then the PDC Art Center sculpts the wire into beautiful wildlife masks. In the form of art, snare wire helps people learn about Africa’s wildlife and the unnatural challenges that many species face today.
Although there has been some great success, the PDC faces challenges that are similar the ones wolf recovery programs confront here in the U.S. Poaching, livestock conflicts, and fear are among the issues that plague the conservation efforts of both species. Rasmussen’s passion for conservation is powerful and the WCC is looking into ways we can assist in the recovery of this special species. If you want to learn more about the PDC and how you can support their wonderful mission, please visit their website and donate today.