The Story of “Snare”, a special African wild dog…..


In the year of 2008, we spent much of our time observing a pack of African hunting dogs (Lycaon pictus) in the south of the Save Valley Conservancy, Zimbabwe.

Consisting of four adults, four yearlings and, initially, more than nine puppies, this pack had had more than its share of tragedy, including a python attack!

The young female, “Snare”, I so called because when we first saw the adult dogs, she had a wire snare tight around her neck, causing a gaping wound. She was difficult to approach since the pack had not yet denned down, still pursuing their nomadic way of life.

Snare with wire on her neck

Snare with wire on her neck

The Alpha female was visibly pregnant, and obviously hunting for a suitable den site.

All we could do was to keep alert for occasional sightings of the dogs. I truly became discouraged-Snare’s wound was so traumatic that it seemed she could not possibly survive if we were unable to remove the vicious wire.

her pain filled eyes said it all....

her pain filled eyes said it all….

At last, scouts located a den site and we were able to begin to visit the dogs, slowly habituating them to our presence, and discovering that they had at least nine fat pups ensconced in a warthog burrow. Joyful hours were spent watching the new family, but we struggled to coordinate a darting team in the first few days.

the Alpha female and her new pups...

the Alpha female and her new pups…

Each day I would watch poor Snare struggling to breathe and keep up with her pack. She resolutely trailed after them on every hunt, interacting as best she could with her boisterous siblings-always thinner than the rest and staying away from the new babies, unlike her sisters. Her siblings, in turn, cleaned her terrible wound and chaperoned her constantly. She tried hard to jump and play with them before evening hunts, but was always subdued in comparison to their exuberance.

Snare"s brother tries to remove the wire snare from her neck...

Snare”s brother tries to remove the wire snare from her neck…

Another tragedy then hit the dogs-a huge python found the burrow, whether by intent or accident we will never know, and, overnight, ate many of the pups-leaving only four whom the Alpha female immediately relocated to another den close by.

only four puppies left..

only four puppies left..

After some aborted attempts to dart Snare, eventually we got lucky and immobilized her, with the help of Reuben from the African Wildlife Conservation Fund, and Graham Connear of Hammond Ranch.

Rueben and Graham at work on poor Snare...

Rueben and Graham at work on poor Snare…

The pink dart was easy to see once it had penetrated her rump…

the pink tranquilliser dart

the pink tranquilliser dart

Removing the wire, we found that it had begun to cut into her trachea, thank goodness still a small hole. Cleaning the wound as best we could, we administered antibiotics and left her to recover.

removing the terrible wire

removing the terrible wire

Clive and Reuben admire their handiwork…

Clive, Rueben and Snare

Clive, Rueben and Snare

Snare’s paw, gently held in my hand….

Snare"s elegant paw...

Snare”s elegant paw…

Over the next few days I saw a transformation that was wondrous to behold-she went from strength to strength, daily interacting more and more with the four tiny pups and hunting enthusiastically with her pack.

On the Hunt

On the Hunt

Snare was a new animal, the breath still faintly whistling through the now healing hole in her neck, but her eyes bright and her enthusiasm boundless. She became a leader of the hunt, often being the one to return first with the Alpha male, both bloody necked from a successful kill, to regurgitate food for her mother, the Alpha female, and  the four new pups! My sketch of Snare, playing with her siblings, reflects her joy…

snare and siblings

snare and siblings

Inspired by her story, my many oil paintings and sketches show Snare interacting before a hunt with her siblings, a symbol of the stamina and will that these dogs show in the face of adversity. She now had the strong potential to be a leader, an Alpha female with pups of her own in the future.

Snare  has since been my inspiration for a large oil painting , auctioned through Tusk Trust and Painted Wolf Wines, to raise money for African Wild Dogconservation  and to become a label for  “Pictus One”, a limited edition of Painted Wolf Wine…

Snare and her brothers-original painting for Painted Wolf Wines and Tusk Trust

Snare and her brothers-original painting for Painted Wolf Wines and Tusk Trust

the wine labels looking good! and tasting even better….

Pictus One

Pictus One

About wineandwilddogs

Lin Barrie The Save Valley Conservancy stretches along the upper reaches of the great Save River in the south east of Zimbabwe. The Gonarezhou National Park laps against the southern banks of the Save River and between these two nestles the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve. These three celebrated wildlife areas form part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area, (GLTFCA)- a unique wilderness jewel which is home to the “Big Five” (endangered Black and White rhinos, elephants, buffalo, lion, leopard) and the ”Little Six” (Klipspringer, Suni, Duiker, Steenbok, Sharpe's Grysbok and Oribi). Endangered African wild dogs, Cheetah, Brown hyena, Bat-eared foxes and a host of special birds and plants contribute to the immense variety of this ecosystem. Communities around the GLTFCA contribute to innovative partnerships with National Parks and the private sector, forming a sound base on which to manage social, economic and environmental issues. This is home to artist and writer Lin Barrie and her life partner, conservationist Clive Stockil. Expressing her hopes, fears and love for this special ecosystem with oil paints on canvas, Lin Barrie believes that the essence of a landscape, person or animal, can only truly be captured by direct observation. Lin Barrie states: “Through my art, and my writing, I feel an intimate connection with the natural world, and from my extensive field sketches of wild animals, people and landscapes, I create larger works on canvas. Lin's work is in various public and private collections in South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Australia, England, Canada, Sweden and the United States of America. She is represented by galleries in South Africa, Zimbabwe, England, Kenya and Florida, USA.
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