Monday, November 02, 2009

I've gone to the dogs

Big news... I have been appointed as one of the patrons of the Australian-based wildlife charity Painted Dog Conservation Inc!

When I started writing books about Africa I hoped that one day there would be some way I could do something via my writing to help raise awareness (or money) for conservation issues.

After a false start (in which one organisation told me they didn't want me to help them raise money because I wasn't famous enough - ouch), I was contacted out of the blue one day by John and Angela Lemon, who run the Painted Dog Conservation organisation in Western Australia.

John and Ange had read my third book, SAFARI which features a (very attractive) painted dog researcher, Michelle Parker, who is based in Hwange Natioinal Park, Zimbabwe. As it turned out, John and Ange had also been working on dog research and conservation in the same park, and John had been instrumental in building a painted dog interprative centre and refuge just outside Hwange's Main Camp.

Readers with long memories may recall that I've spoken at a couple of John and Ange's fundraisers over the past two years, and auctioned off names in my books to help them raise money. There are a couple of big donors to the cause who feature as characters in my latest book, IVORY.

Painted Dog Conservation Inc supports in-situ painted dog research and conservation projects in Namibia and Zimbabwe.

The interpretive centre, which I visited recently during my trip to Zimbabwe, is quite frankly the best facility of its kind I have ever seen. And I'm not just saying this because I'm now a patron. (I'm standing out the front of the centre in the picture up the top of this post).
The centre provides a wealth of informaiton about the endangered painted dog via the (mostly true) story of one plucky doggy, named Eyespot. Large colourful murals paint the painted dog picture in a way kids (and grown ups) can absorb information, and have their heart strings tugged at the same time.

There's no entrance fee to the centre, though by the time you've heard all of Eyespot's trials and tribulations (delivered in a very warm, and very polished manner by the lady guide) you can't wait to get your wallet out.

Interestingly, and scarily, the entire building (and it's a biggy) is made of mud bricks reinforced by snare wire. Subsistence poachers place snares in the national park to trap small buck, such as Impala, for food, but curious predators (like the dog below) and every other manner of mammal also get ensnared. One of the main activities of the dog conservation project in Hwange is anti-poaching patrols and snare collection.

As well as educating visitors and locals alike, the centre also functions as a refuge for injured or otherwise disadvantaged painted dogs. While I was there visiting the centre was caring for a litter of puppies whose parents had been killed by lions. With other animals these might have been left to die in the wild, but there are so few painted dogs left in Africa (only about 2,500) that these little doggies had to be saved.

Our guide around the enclosures, Xmas, (that's him and me below) told us that once the pups reached a certain age (big but not too big) they should be able to be reintroduced to the wild and adopted by another pack. What nice animals these dogs are.

Now, I'm not sure what a patron is supposed to do, so if you have any ideas, please let me know. For now, it's probably enough that you all click through to the website here and learn a bit more about painted dogs.

I might not know what to do, but I am touched and honoured to have been invited to lend my ongoing support to this very good cause.


Karen Bessey Pease said...

Good for you, Tony! I don't know, either, what a 'patron' does... probably whatever he's told! But any cause dedicated to protecting an endangered animal is a great one, and we're proud to be fans of one who 'supports, protects and champions' these beautiful animals.

Keep up the good work!


(Does this mean you're famous, now?)

Timepilot said...

Well done Tony - that's a VERY worthwhile cause to be patron of (clap clap)

dozycow said...

That is fantastic news Tony - congratulations & well done !!
Helping to conserve our endanged wildlife is a wonderful achievement & one you should be very proud of !!

ali g said...

as the Ex honorary patron of the Sydney Islamic Mosque in the eighties the only advice I can give would be [if in similar circumstances] would be to make sure [unlike I did] to make sure that you take your shoes off before entering a mosque...

apart from my foxes paw, well done!
just dont tread in any dog bowls...

Shamrock Safari said...

What should a patron do?
1. Get knighted
2. Win some prize money from winning the Pulitzer, then donate it all to the Wild Dogs
3. Write letters to the Environment Minister asking for lots of money to look after the Dogs
4. Campaign actively for the dogs' conservation. But don't get shot.
5. Look more important. I think a tie might be appropriate.

ps. what's the latest news on the new wheels? You should see our new TD5 ;)

tonypark said...

Thanks all, and thanks for the ideas - I like the one about getting Knighted. Also, a safari suit and tie would go well - very Sir Les Patterson.

A&J what's this about a TD5? Surely you haven't shoe-horned one into poor little old Grommit? I'm

Expect a long, detailed (and boring for non land rover owners) post about Broom Broomas soon. He is a champion (although he has developed a rather annoying vibratioin somewhere on the injector fuel pump...)

ali g said...

they wanted to knight me but I didn't like the look of Akmads scimitar

Trin said...

Well done Tony - well deserved I am sure. I guess a patron is akin to a Godfather??? I am also sure you must be feeling very proud, as you should. gOOD WORK

Ali G - always good for a laugh. How many sleeps now? And have you calculated down to hours available to pack - bit anal I know, but if you deduct all the hours spent sleeping, working, socializing, grocery shopping etc, you can get the hours down to a remarkably small amount.
And back to TP: spare a thought for your female readers (and there are a few of us) when you start wacxing lyrical about the LR's, as we won't have the same level of, if you were to talk jeeps......

PS: Hi Les, from a couple of blogs ago

ali g said...

38 Trin but who's counting.
Talking about anal still trying to get my backside into last trips safari's a worry..sigh

Karen said...

While Ali g's trying to squeeze his shanks into his shrunken britches, let me just mention real quickly how big his HEAD is going to be!

Our good pal has just won his THIRD blog contest in as many months! That's right...Ali g entered another 'Name that Caption' contest on Grumbles and Grins. The judge was a friend of mine who was not provided with any of the names of the entrants, nor had she read any of the comments under 'Grins for Silent Predator'. I made sure of that, because I wanted to make SURE that Ali g had no unfair advantage! (He likes to shine on the girls, I'm afraid, so I was trying to be proactive and keep my judge pure and unbiased...)

Friend Kay emailed me with her choice this morning. I ran home from work and checked which entrant was #10...and it was that frisky feline, Ali g.

Friend, you are either very lucky, or incredibly talented...

Congratulations. I look forward to awarding you the prize!

dozycow said...

Ali g: You did it again !
Congratulations !!
A poem from Karen is sure to be a wonderful treasure to be enjoyed many times over.....what a prize!!!
PS: Maybe your wardrobe is where your problem is ? Mine constantly shrinks any clothing hung inside it.....

Alison Nicholls said...

Hi Tony,

I was at PDC for 6 weeks in 2007 tracking and sketching the dogs and learning about their community projects. Its a great project run by great people for a great cause. Congrats on your patron status!
Alison Nicholls
PS. If you ever want to use video of the project to publicise it on your blog/website I've got several clips posted on YouTube you can link to.

tonypark said...

HI Alison, I know the loyal readers on this site do like their pictures and movies, so I think it'd be cool to link to a video or two.

Let's do it.

Alison Nicholls said...

No problem Tony, just search for Nicholls Wildlife Art on YouTube. I have clips on Tracking Dogs, Children's Bushcamp, Visitor Center, Rehab Facility, Anti-Poaching Unit, Hwange Wildlife, Elephants Everywhere and Elephant Calf Rescue (always popular!). Feel free to link to any of them that you think might be interesting. If you could mention that they were filmed as part of my "Painting the Painted Dogs" expedition that would be great.
Thanks and keep up the good work.

Alison Nicholls said...

Hi again Tony,

Forgot to mention this - Greg Rasmussen was recently nominated for the Indianapolis Prize. More info on my blog if you're interested.