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  • South Africa is filled with all kinds of animalsBut how many of you have heard of this one,  

  • the African wild dog, also known  as the African painted dog,  

  • because of its unique coat. You may have  not heard of them because this species has  

  • been seen as a pest to the region. So much  so they've been hunted to near extinction.  

  • But now conservationists are working towards  building the packs biodiversity and ultimately saving the species.   

  • This next film by  director Emily Cross is called Part of the Pack.

  • Make sure to stick around after the  credits to hear from the filmmaker herself.

  • The African wild dog is listed as an  endangered species on the IUCN Red List.  

  • It's the most endangered carnivore in South Africa.  

  • A large part of the problem is the history  and the perceptions that wild dogs carry.  

  • There's only 550 wild dogs  left in the whole country.

  • They live in family groups that are  cooperating their hunting strategy.  

  • They help each other, they protect each other.

  • There's this level of social structure and energy  that really builds a pack and keeps the cohesion  

  • within them. The more time you start spending  with them, you start learning the different  

  • personalities within the pack. The different roles  and responsibilities that the pack members share.  

  • That kind of emotional intelligence is  something that really draws me to them.

  • The wild dog are the great hunters and they have a nice  collaboration when they do their hunt, you get a  

  • particular individual that is right by the preyAnd when that particular individual tires out,  

  • he pulls off to the edge of the line and  the others come in so that they keep that  

  • persistent pace. And then the youngsters also  help the pack to hunt and have to feed the puppies  

  • during the training season. Whatever they've  killed, they would eat something, swallow it,  

  • they would run kilometers back to the  den and regurgitate for the puppies.

  • I think it's a very unique system, especially  in the African bush where they've got a million  

  • other challenges, but they'll put their pack  members first. There's so many different  

  • threats and a real history of persecution to  the African wild dogs. They were seen as vermin,  

  • people were receiving financial rewards  for killing wild dogs and South Africa.  

  • Wild dog territory was completely reduced right across the country. So it kind of shows  

  • the kind of urgency we have  to conserve the species.

  • The main problem would be human beings.  

  • The snares are being put in a place that  you can't really get to patrol every day.  

  • And even outside the park, then it's like 15 to  20 snares in a kilometer radius. So whatsoever,  

  • the animal is just running through without  anticipating anything. And all of a sudden this  

  • thing catches it, you actually most likely to lose  the entire pack f they go through a snared area.

  • We've had cases where a lot of dogs been snaredand it's been removed from the pack and placed  

  • in captivity for rehabilitation. And often that  wild dog does quite fine with getting rehabbed  

  • and then suddenly takes a turn  for the worse a few days later.  

  • And in post mortems, we find that the  severity of stress being away from the pack,  

  • and even something that we  nicknamed broken heart syndrome,  

  • are things that wild dogs really do suffer fromAnd without the pack, and without that cohesion,  

  • it's a big struggle for them. They've existed  this long, because they live and die for their pack.

  • Wild dogs disperse to find new territories  and to start packs of their own.

  • It's an adaption that ensures genetic  variability. But the problem with this  

  • is that they are adapted to traveling very far  distances. This causes breakouts out of the park,

  • a dog running 20 kilometers  in a space of two hours,  

  • getting to understand how far they could  actually extend in search for partners.

  • So often forestry communitiescommercial farm lands and highways,  

  • and in doing that, they'll end  up often becoming roadkill too.

  • And if they encounter communities, they  kind of find a way of actually avoiding it  

  • Should we just be saying: Let's open up  passages for them to actually move through,

  • so that they can be able to find the chance to  live in some other places? Or if they do find  

  • a suitable land, then they would settle there.

  • The two main objectives that we have  within conserving wild dogs in South Africa  

  • and in southern Africa, in fact. Number onemaintain what we have. And number two, restore  

  • what we've lost. That in itself even includes  the genetic translocations between the reserves.  

  • Simply putting wild dogs in one reserve  and thinking we've done our job is not  

  • the case. Once those pups are born within  that pack, and they start wanting to breed,  

  • we have to ensure that they are breeding with  wild dogs that are far related from them.  

  • We want to increase the population  numbers, which includes the pack numbers  

  • and the individual numbers, and also increase the  genetic diversity within the wild dogs. The more

  • dogs fitted with tracking collars, the better  for the wild dog population of South Africa.  

  • collars need to be under a certain weight  in order to be fitted onto a wild dog...

  • programmed to log four points a day. This  gives us consistent data throughout  

  • the time of the collar being on the animal.   Information on habitat utilization, population,  

  • demographics, poaching and snaring incidentsas well as potential breakouts out of the park.

  • We can then use that database within  the country to carry up the best dogs  

  • and ensure that the best genetics are coming  through and increasing the genetic diversity.

  • Educating from grassroots level from the kids up,  

  • and getting them to know about wild dogs and  grow a love and a passion for wild dogs.

  • Educational, in a way, the community starts learning how  

  • these animals aren't as dangerous as we thought they were.

  • So just the fact that a wild dog has the ability  to choose a den and then ensure that the sick,  

  • the injured and the young, are fed first and looked after, and that the fittest dogs will eat at the end,  

  • for me says everything we need to  know about wild dogs. And in fact,  

  • it's something that I think as humanswe almost need to take a page out of their book.

  • That pack formation teaches you something  and you hope you will see families live like that

  • you would hope you would see communities coming  together. And surely, as we are putting efforts  

  • into conserving the species, if we get community  buy ins and local farmers buying in, it will  

  • actually be formalizing a greater pack system that  we've actually observed from these creatures. And  

  • in that extent, we'll be having at least  a combined society towards conservation.  

  • When you change the mindset and the perceptions,  

  • then you get to a point of saying hey,  I've done something.

  • We've got hope.

  • Now let's talk to Emily cross about how she  fell in love with these painted creatures.

  • So my name is Emily Cross, and I'm  a conservation wildlife filmmaker  

  • as well as a full time production manager in  the advertising world in Durban, South Africa.  

  • It started actually in 2015, I went to a Game  Reserve in Zululand into the land called Mkuze and  

  • I would go there once a year with my family. And  it's actually a funny story. I started speaking  

  • with this Wildlife ACT monitor who is there  to monitor endangered species and they mentioned  

  • how they were they monitoring the leopards and the  wild dogs and I'd never heard of wild dogs before.  

  • And she said, you know actually if you  like go down this road at this time, like  

  • just turn off your car and just wait You  might see them. We jump in the car and we go  

  • I'll never forget it, like we turn the corner there  was just grass. And literally, there was nothing.  

  • So we turn the car off, and we wait. Just shortshort grass, and there's absolutely nothing.  

  • So we talking, talking and then all ofsudden you start seeing these white flicks  

  • through the grass. And we had no idea what  these things were kind of thing. And next thing  

  • like 30 wild dogs got up out of the grasslike where we couldn't see them at all before  

  • and they got up. And we're able to watch them for  about 40 minutes, which is also super rare. First  

  • that pack size. And then like the duration of the  moment that we had was just incredible. And we saw  

  • them playing with snakes and like, like just as  a pack interacting with each other. And I just,  

  • I just remember like having this like sudden  rush that like this is like something magical.  

  • like as if I was seeing a unicorn  like I'd never seen this creature before.  

  • I'm a big fan of dogs in general. So like  this was just such an incredible experience.  

  • I was working at a preschool. But there was  just something about this animal species that  

  • just wouldn't get off of me kind of thingLike I just was constantly thinking about  

  • them and asking questions. And one day, it wassponsored ad on Facebook and they came up that there was  

  • a pitch competition, a new pitch. And never heard  of it, never done anything to do with filmmaking.  

  • But it was you know, enter your story to do  with nature, environmental wildlife filmmaking,  

  • and you can get go to the final round, you can  pitch it and you could win 50,000 rand to  

  • create your short story. So I remember like it  was about a week's worth of time I was like,  

  • like, should I do it? Don't I do it? I have no idea about this like,  

  • so I went to my dad. And I explained to him that  I want to try to do this kind of thing. And  

  • like this is the story I want to tell, no  one knows about these animals this like 500 left.   

  • We need to do it. And sosent off my proposal. And I remember,  

  • I just... to be honest, I completely forgot about it. And I thought that nothing was going to come  

  • from it. And I left it. And then, I was once having  a nap in the afternoon and I got a phone call  

  • and it was Noel from NEWF. And I just remember  like I remember been completely shocked. And  

  • he was saying like you've made it like your pitch  finalists. And I was like it's not like this, I remember like  

  • stopping and looking at the numbers to make  sure that was a legit number and everything and  

  • Noel being Noel just like cracked up laughing and  was like, we'll you certain kind of thing.  

  • And from there, the ball started rolling.

  • There  was first the first hurdle was public speaking  

  • and pitching. Like it was one thing makingpretty proposal and convincing people with words,  

  • but to now pitch in front of like a room of  people from Jackson Wild and from Nat Geo.

  • It's extremely intimidating. And so that  was the first hurdle. But it was actually such an  

  • amazing experience and I actually won the Audience  Award from my pitch, which was such a huge surprise.

  • From my understanding of what I've seenespecially with South Africa's dogs,  

  • and in [inaudible] dogs, the bloodlines are getting so strong and so  

  • good that they are now being dispersed to  other areas and other countries and stuff  

  • to try and get the numbers up there. So there is  definitely improvements happening. And I think  

  • they've got the right people in the  right roles, doing the right things.

  • I love my job and I love producing and I would never change the career path. But  

  • there's something that while making "Part of the Pack", I  just got a taste of the conservation and wildlife  

  • world. And it's definitely where I want to  end up. At the moment I'm busy transitioning  

  • into seeing what opportunities they're might  be that open to that. But I've since literally  

  • the second the film was edited, I was like, Okaythis needs to be a feature. So at the moment, I've  

  • got a feature proposal, it's just at the momentfinding the right funders and applying for it. So  

  • I've just applied to a really cool film grant called  the Durban FilmMart grant. And, and so holding thumbs that  

  • that hopefully bring something but I think I've  sort of convinced myself that in the next like  

  • three years, I want to say, it I don't have the  funding, I'm just gonna find a way to do it.  

  • Without that kind of thing. Like I've got enough  footage and that it is more wanting to spend the  

  • time the communities, telling those stories  and finding there were more individuals that I

  • wanted to interview and involve like vets and more  hands on people that are involved in the process.

  • Thanks for joining us again for Seeker Indie, our new short documentary spotlight series.  

  • We're excited to keep bringing you stories  from science you may have never heard before.  

  • Keep coming back to see what else  we have in store and the amazing  

  • stories we continue to highlight. Thanks for  watching and we'll see you next time on Seeker.

South Africa is filled with all kinds of animalsBut how many of you have heard of this one,  

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How Scientists Are Saving South Africa’s Painted Dogs | Part of the Pack

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    Summer posted on 2021/04/19
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