Wild Dogs from KZN to NW

Sep 2, 2011

MISSION  20 of  2011

Name of Mission: Wild Dogs from KZN to NW
Date of Mission: 2 September 2011 
Aircraft used: Cessna 182       
Pilot: Chris Rattray     
Beneficiary: EWT and the Khamab Kalahari Reserve

Objective of the Flight

To transfer two female Wild Dogs from a game farm near Mkuze, in northern KwaZulu-Natal to the Khamab Kalahari Reserve near Bray in the NW Province.

Pilot’s report                 By Chris Rattray

This Bateleurs mission was to transfer two female wild dogs from Mr Charl Senekal’s game farm near Mkuze to the Khamab Kalahari Reserve near Bray in the North West Province. The brief seemed simple enough and it was scheduled for 02 September 2011.

Dr Mike Toft of Wildlife Vet Services was to accompany us and, more importantly, attend to the drugging of the animals – who were to be laid ‘loose’ on tarpaulins inside the aircraft while in transit, and not contained in cages. Mike met me early at the Monzi Zululand airfield for take-off to Mkuze.

We arrived on time only to find that the Dogs still had not been captured – they knew that something was up and were being very elusive. After about two hours the capture team arrived with their sleeping quarry. Mike immediately sprang into action to prepare them for the approximately four-hour journey. He told me it was not ideal for their health to put them out for long, and that he would rather just top up the sleep dose when necessary.

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We took off into perfect blue skies and headed for flight level FL085 with a planned refuel en route at Klerksdorp, (just over two hours away), and then on to the private airfield near Bray [ another one and a third hours away). So we expected the mission to involve a total of 3 hours and 45 minutes, which would allow us to deliver our animals and return to Klerksdorp for refueling, an then fly home to Zululand.

However, passing through 5000‘ we started to hit turbulence, which became more and more severe. The plane was being flung around and the poor dogs were being thrown up and down, hopefully without them knowing it. To make matters worse we were flying into severe haze from a massive timber fire on the escarpment. I kept glancing at the GPS ground speed – it was on the continual decrease – and finally settled at 60 mph – for my 125 mph cruise to Klerksdorp!

Mike was having quite a time: anaesthetizing the dogs through the common tubes he had carefully set up while we were still on the ground, and constantly checking their drips. Being a pilot himself, he knew, thankfully, what turbulence was all about. So we gritted our teeth and decided we were going to push through – things could only improve. The slow progress meant another refuel as it was going to take four-and-a-half hours to Klerksdorp, at this speed. We decided on Secunda. Coming onto a very turbulent final and crosswind I felt some movement behind me, only to hear Mike say “You really shouldn’t be doing that“, and there was the larger dog –  who had been lying on the floor behind us – standing up to take in some scenery through the window.

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We tried to refuel as quickly as possible, after having to coax the attendant back to his post, who claimed: “Ek weet daai honde – hulle byt ook!” Soon we were airborne once again and back to fighting the wind. But things began to improve and I decided to make for Mafeking to refuel, and then do the short hop to Bray. All went well. On getting back into the aircraft at Mafeking, the larger female had repositioned herself with her head up between the front seats, calmly enjoying the experience.

The best part of the trip was the last sector to Bray, but just when we thought we had arrived and positioned ourselves on very short final, one of the locals decided to do another runway check and turned at 90 deg across the runway – we missed him by about 50 m. But we arrived safely at last.

There was a big welcome party and much excitement as we loaded up the semi-conscious Wild Dogs and headed for the game enclosures at the Khamab Reserve. Mike was out with his special box of tricks again and in about 15 minutes the dogs were up and trying to walk, looking at us as if to say “And who the hell are you?“ I must say I had already become attached to them; they had been very good in transit with minimum mess and very little inconvenience. [Mike may disagree!]   And so it was at sunset that they were released –  our trip up had taken one whole day.

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The man in charge at Khamab was Hanno Kilian, the reserve ecologist who was very informative and helpful and extremely grateful to us and to The Bateleurs for carrying out the transfer. It turned out to be the best thing as we were treated like kings at the lodge and got in a good night’s rest before a game drive to the airfield. The Khamab is a 93,000 Ha reserve and we saw veld in immaculate condition, so too with the game:  Gemsbok, Eland, Springbok, Kudu, warthog.

There are currently three male wild dogs in residence at the Khamab and it is hoped that the two young females will play a role in establishing a successful breeding unit. The existing wild dogs have adapted well and have also adjusted their killing technique to Africa’s largest antelope – the eland. On checking the next day our charges were in full recovery, so we bade them farewell and wished them luck. It would be satisfying to return some day to witness their offspring and know that we, The Bateleurs, had played a part in there being a new generation of Wild Dogs at the Khamab Reserve.

Beneficiary’s report             Feedback sent by Brendan Whittington-Jones (EWT)

On 24th October The Bateleurs received the following feedback from Hanno Kilian, via Brendan Whittington-Jones, who had submitted the initial Flight Request from EWT for this mission:

An exciting update from Khamab:

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The male dogs visited the females in the boma for the first time on Saturday when we managed to lure the males into the adjacent boma. As to be expected, there was lot of excitement and sniffing through the fence. Also a few shocks from the electric fence!

I left them in adjacent bomas on Sunday, and yesterday morning decided to open the gate between the two bomas. As is to be expected, there was a lot of sniffing and getting to know each other. However, none of the dogs displayed any aggression. It was a hot day, and the dogs all settled in under the trees soon after they had been introduced to each other.

This morning we fed them, while together, for the first time. Again there was no aggressive reaction from any dogs at the kill. There was some more sniffing of each other. Then, to my surprise, the male (who I have identified as the more dominant male) started mating with the female who appears to be more dominant. These two dogs paid very little attention to the food; they were playing with each other, etc.,  the whole time.

I left there in the late morning, and at the time all the dogs were nestled under the trees to escape the heat. I will go back up there later this afternoon again, but wanted you to know that at the moment it appears as if this transfer actually turned out to be a great success.

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