In Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, the painted dog, an endangered species, fights for survival. Jealous Mpofu, a man has emerged as the unsung hero of this battle.
Over the past 25 years, Mpofu’s commitment to rescuing and safeguarding painted dogs has earned him the prestigious title of Tusk’s Ranger of the Year.
This accolade not only recognizes his tireless efforts but also sheds light on the plight of these unique African canines.
Painted dogs, with their distinct marble coats, are among the most endangered species globally.
Once numbering half a million, their population has dwindled to fewer than 7,000, teetering on the edge of extinction.
Misunderstood and maligned, painted dogs face threats from farmers, poachers, and even vehicles.
Contrary to misconceptions, they are not scavengers but are often mistaken for hyenas. The ignorance surrounding these remarkable animals has led to a drastic decline in their numbers.
Jealous Mpofu’s connection with painted dogs began unexpectedly. As the son of a farm laborer on the outskirts of Hwange National Park, Mpofu overheard negative discussions about painted dogs. His interest in these creatures grew, and fate intervened when he met Peter Blinston, a Briton passionate about wildlife conservation. Together, they founded Painted Dog Conservation, with Mpofu becoming its first ranger.
Mpofu’s journey was not without challenges. With limited resources, he traversed the vast Hwange region, covering up to 20 miles on foot when the charity’s vehicle broke down. Tragedy struck in 2006 when the last alpha male in Hwange’s pack was killed, leaving the group dispersed. Undeterred, Mpofu and his team worked tirelessly to rehabilitate the alpha female and reintroduce her into the wild. The success that followed, with the birth of numerous offspring, showcased Mpofu’s dedication.
As the head of a team of six rangers, Mpofu’s day starts at 4 am. Armed with radio equipment, he tracks the five packs spread across more than 1,000 square miles. His intimate knowledge of each painted dog’s unique markings allows him to monitor and protect them effectively. Mpofu’s efforts extend beyond Conservation, as he actively involves himself in educating rural children about these incredible animals.
What you can do
Support ‘Fighting for Wildlife’ by donating as little as $1 – It only takes a minute. Thank you.
Fighting for Wildlife supports approved wildlife conservation organizations, which spend at least 80 percent of the money they raise on actual fieldwork, rather than administration and fundraising. When making a donation you can designate for which type of initiative it should be used – wildlife, oceans, forests or climate.
This article by Trinity Sparke was first published by One Green Planet on 22 November 2023. Image Credit :bayazed/Shutterstock.