(Left) This is the last picture of Busara, taken in November 2017. She was in great health. (Right) Busara, see here with a snake which she’d previously killed. Photo credits Ruaha Carnivore Project.
In 2013 – in collaboration with the Cheetah Conservation Fund Namibia – RCP started the first trial of specialized livestock guarding dogs in East Africa. Several Anatolian Shepherd dogs were imported and placed in local households with the intention to reduce livestock’s vulnerability to predators while grazing.
But life in the African bush is not easy for a dog – not only because of big carnivores but also because of illnesses, snakes and other smaller threats. RCP decided to keep one Anatolian female to breed with a local dog to see whether mixed dogs would be better adapted to the local environment.
Unfortunately, Busara (the Anatolian female) and Poppy – the local male dog – didn’t get to produce offspring. One of Busara’s passions, since she was a puppy, had been to kill snakes, and in December 2017 she finally paid for it. One night a spitting cobra came into the dog’s enclosure and, although Busara managed to kill it, she was bitten and we found her dead in the morning. The whole RCP team was sad to lose an important part of our bush family.
The livestock guarding dog programme was a pilot one for RCP and it is time for the team to evaluate the results and decide the next steps. Although the programme hasn’t been free of challenges, the dog owners are extremely happy with the presence of the dogs and are especially impressed with their shepherding skills, so it is likely that we will continue with some form of a guarding dog programme in the future despite this set-back.