Summer in Houston brings to mind several things: heat, humidity, and mosquitoes the size of your hand! This year, the Houston Zoo would like to start a new tradition, The Dog Days of Summer! Painted dogs are one of the most endangered carnivores in Africa. The Houston Zoo loves its African Painted Dogs and wants to do everything we can to save them from extinction. We are proud to partner with and support Painted Dog Conservation (PDC) in Zimbabwe. PDC is dedicated to protecting painted dogs in the wild, through research, education, and engagement of the local Zimbabwean community. The Houston Zoo’s unique relationship with PDC has enabled the exchange of resources, information, training, and expertise.
PDC Lead Builder and Bush Camp Guide, Dought Nkomo, and Lead Dog Keeper, Xmas Mpofu came to the Houston Zoo in 2011 to begin an exchange with Houston Zoo (HZI) staff that continues to this day. The PDC staff worked alongside HZI staff, each sharing their techniques and expertise. Dought and Xmas spent time with different areas of the zoo as they related to their jobs in Zimbabwe.
Six months later, Brandon Patterson of the Facilities Department, travelled to Zimbabwe where he aided in the reconstruction of a dip tank for cattle. The dip tank is a ramp system where cattle are led down through the water at the bottom to treat them for flies and other paracites. Rainwater was normally used in the dip tank, but the dry season made it difficult. The community built a water catchment right next to the tank so they could continue to use it through the dry season.
Soon after Brandon’s visit a member of the conservation department and a Houston Zoo board member travelled to Painted Dog Conservation to enhance their conservation education programing. They added amphibian and bat educational components to their existing eco-system based children’s Bush Camp education program.
With PDC recently building its onsite clinic, HZI’s Veterinary Hospital Manager Lisa Marie Avendano was sent to Zimbabwe with supplies for the treatment center and to assist in the training of the clinic staff. The new onsite clinic will enable staff to treat sick or injured dogs right at the facility in lieu of a four hour drive to the nearest animal hospital. With the donated equipment, they will even be able to run labs and diagnostic tests!
Cooperation between these two organizations has helped both to improve their programs and enhance their understanding of how to conserve painted dogs in the wild. To learn more about PDC and what the Houston Zoo is doing to help save this amazing species, please join us for the Dog Days of Summer event August 3-4 at the Houston Zoo. There will be Meet the Keeper talks, enrichment demonstrations, kids’ crafts, and the opportunity to aid our pack’s wild counterparts!