The reintroduction of game began early in 1991, shortly before the perimeter fence had been completed. Operation Phoenix, as the reintroduction programme is called, is the largest game translocation exercise in the world. More than 8,000 animals of 28 species have so far been released into the reserve, including elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion, cheetah, Cape hunting dog, spotted hyaena, giraffe, zebra and many species of antelope and herbivores. Leopard already occurred in the reserve. Operation Phoenix was completed in 1997.
Wild Dogs were trans-located to Madikwe Game Reserve in 1994. This highly endangered species number between 3 000 and 5 000 left in the world and can only be found in the larger reserves or in uninhabited regions of Southern and Eastern Africa. The founding group of six Madikwe Wild Dogs were drawn from a breeding station for rare and endangered species and from the wild near Kruger National Park.
Since then Madikwe has carefully watched and fostered the progress of its Wild Dog Clans whose journey has been exciting and sometimes treacherous with some devastating losses through clan clashes, lion attack and rabies. Madikwe Game Reserve has gone to great lengths to ensure the maintenance of its clans and successfully introduced new Wild Dogs from other reserves.
Even though Africa’s Wild Dog population is suffering from persecution by man, susceptibility to disease and loss of natural habitat, there is now an intensive push to conserve and protect these amazing animals for future generations.