Serengeti — PRESIDENT Jakaya Kikwete has set free 11 more wild dogs in Serengeti National Park (Senapa), a move that is aimed at bringing back the endangered species in one of the country's major tourist destinations.
"They (wild dogs) are so beautiful. This is an additional tourist attraction in the Serengeti. Let us make sure that they are safe", President Kikwete said on Sunday shortly after setting free the wild dogs at Nyamuma area inside the world famous park.
The wild dogs were captured at Loliondo a few months ago and kept in a special sanctuary as part of the ongoing project meant to bring back the wild dogs in the park. Loliondo is part of the Serengeti eco-system but it is outside the park.
In August this year the first family (group) comprising 15 wild dogs captured in Loliondo was set free and allowed to roam within the park's vicinity, according to Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) Director General Dr Simon Mduma.
"The first group is doing very well. All the wild dogs are alive", Dr Mduma told President Kikwete in his brief remarks about the project. The project is being implemented by TAWIRI in collaboration with the Tanzania National Parks (Tanapa), Wildlife Division under the sponsorship of Vodacom Tanzania and Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS).
Vodacom Tanzania has donated about 450m/- to finance the project, according to its External Affairs Manager, Mr Salimu Mwalim. Dr Mduma confirmed that the project has also received 30m/- from the State House following a pledge made by President Kikwete.
The head of the nation hailed the initiatives and called for continued support from other stakeholders. "I have been visiting Senapa quite often but the absence of wild dogs in the park is one of the things that have not impressed me.
"These are commendable initiatives but the journey is still long", President Kikwete said. Wild dogs are at the top of the list of most endangered species internationally as is the case of black rhinos, according to Dr Mduma. The animals started disappearing from Senapa in the 1980s when diseases that included rabies struck, decimating animals in the dog family.
"There were about 500 wild dogs in Serengeti at that time. "But they started dying or disappearing in the 1980s and the last wild dog in the park was seen in 1992 at Kirawira," Dr Mduma said. Tanapa Director General Allan Kijazi said that efforts will be made to protect as well as increase the number of wild dogs. "We are expecting these wild dogs to remain in the park and flourish," Mr Kijazi said without going into details.