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Poachers trap ‘rare wild dogs’ in Zimbabwe

TWO PACKS of endangered painted wild dogs have been snared by poachers in an area adjoining a Zimbabwe national park.

About 3,000 painted wild dogs are thought to be left in the wild, with 700 in Zimbabwe. Until the recent economic crisis in the country the chief threat had been from farmers who shot them in the belief that they attacked cattle.

The 20 animals snared lived in an area adjoining Hwange national park in north-western Zimbabwe, close to Botswana. They were among 78 wild dogs being monitored by the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation.

Melanie Shepherd, the daughter of the wildlife artist who founded the organisation, said: "People in Zimbabwe are snaring for anything they can eat and the dogs happen to be getting into the snares.

"The situation is dire. The environment ministry estimates that 50 per cent of the country's wildlife has been destroyed."

The foundation is the largest employer in the area, paying 17 men to carry out anti-poaching patrols in the Gwayi conservancy, next to Hwange national park. In the first six months the unit was deployed in the area its members removed 1,091 snares.

Greg Rasmusson, a zoologist and leader of the project, said: "We are at such a critical point that in six months there will be nothing. There is poaching like I have never seen in 13 years."