March 2021 Newsletter

With three months of the year behind us, the pack cannot believe how quickly time is marching along. That being said, we are proud and enthused by what we have accomplished thus far. True to our spirit animal, we are a high-energy team with lots on our plate, making us a little difficult to keep track of at times.
As a proactive pack, we recognise that much unfolds over the course of a month, and to keep all of our extended pack up to date, we are testing the waters with the introduction of a monthly newsletter. Welcome you to the very first newsletter! A space we hope will grow and develop with us.

Live Virtual Conservation Experiences embarked on a ground-breaking undertaking, making history last month, as the first company to do a live broadcast of a rhino dehorning, several in fact!

In collaboration with Rhino Revolution, the team planned the trailblazing event to fall over Sunday the 7th and Monday the 8th of March. Sunday the 7th of March was intended to be a private Japanese broadcasting, presented by our Japanese dynamo, Yuka Ota. Unfortunately, the bush, being as thick and impenetrable as it is now, made locating and executing the dehorning a challenging undertaking.

Monday the 8th was a more fruitful day for both broadcasting and dehorning, as we managed to dehorn 6 white rhino. Of the 6 rhino that were dehorned, 5 were from the group affectionately known as ‘The Lucky Five’. ‘The Lucky Five’ are five orphaned white rhino that were raised to independence by Rhino Revolution and released onto Rietspruit at the end of 2017. Our collaboration with Rhino Revolution made this a poignant moment as it celebrated the success story of these individuals while making personal the harrowing threat that is poaching.  

Conservation is one of the pillars upon which rests and we are incredibly proud and humbled to have made history as the first company to do a live broadcast of a rhino dehorning. We also would love to thank each of you who participated in making this event the rip-roaring success it was. We would never have been able to fund this were it not for your various forms of endorsement, be it hyping the event on social media, financial contributions, or otherwise. We see you and we thank you.

Conservation Corner

Conservation work doesn’t stop with the dehorning of our big pachyderms. Last month a few of our conservation projects included the reintroduction of 6 crocodiles onto Rietspruit Game Reserve, assisting in the darting of a lioness for medical reasons, as well as tackling the difficult but important topic of human-wildlife conflict, following the shooting of Hukumuri, a leopard of WildEarth fame.
Crocodiles are a vital part of the ecosystem in the wild parts of the Lowveld, this means that the reintroduction of crocodiles onto Rietspruit Game Reserve is an important step in encouraging a healthy and balanced environment. was fortunate enough to film the release of this prehistoric species. Of the six 1,2m crocodiles that were released, four were set free at Hippo dam and two at Leadwood dam. Here’s hoping these formidable reptiles settle in well and reach majestic stature in their new home.
As much as it is important to reintroduce animals that are absent from a system, another aspect of game management in a closed system is ensuring that animals are not met with unnatural amounts of intraspecific competition. The experts who are responsible for the management of Rietspruit Game Reserve have decided that birth control is the least invasive and most humane manner in which to maintain the thriving lion population. Part of the outworking of this decision requires darting and administering birth control to the identified lioness. After a long day of tracking, navigating the dense vegetation, strategizing, and even receiving a bit of a growl (cough, Brent, cough), the lioness was darted and we were granted the privilege of being up close and personal with one of Africa’s most iconic apex predators, a somewhat surreal experience and one that never gets old.
Following the death of Hukumuri, the male leopard who had to be euthanised after he took up residence in a local village, hosted a live panel discussion. Experts were given the platform to get candid about the reality of human-wildlife conflict in the area. It is a sensitive and deeply upsetting matter for many but we urge you if you have not already done so, to watch the panel discussion with ears to hear and compassion to understand. The experts, all of which possess various levels of personal investment in this story, offer sage insights and valuable contributions to a conversation that will never truly reach a conclusion.

Private Virtual Safari Synopsis

Our Private Virtual Safari’s (PVSs) are some of our favourite activites. Being able to share wildlife with virtual guests adds value to what we do and connects us with our roots. The interactive drives have come on in leaps and bounds since their conception and we are now able to connect with those who join us via a Zoom calls, and similar. It has been fantastic to hear the voices, and questions of those of you who we consider to be part of the extended pack. 

True to the chaotic nature of life in the wild, our highlight from this month’s various PVSs unfolded when we least expected it to. Barely 300m from home invigorating pandemonium broke loose. Not even having had time to introduce Bryan, Brent erupted with “wild dogs, wild dogs, wild dogs, and a rhino, wilddogswilddogswilddogs!” What ensued after this point can only be described as electrifying mayhem. The viewers on this drive were treated to a spectacle of wild dogs hunting impala, elephants chasing wild dogs, wild dogs harassing a growly cat (we heard the growl but didn’t get a visual to confirm whether it was a leopard or a lion, though we’re placing our bets on it being the former) and a wonderful whirlwind ferrari safari.   

If participating in one of our Private Virtual Safari’s appeals to you, keep an eye on the PVS schedule that is posted to the app, on our website, or send us an email at We delight in sharing these moments with you.

News from the Den

First and foremost, we had a birthday! Yuka Ota, our pioneering Japanese safari guide, and conservationist, celebrated her 26th chapter of life with cheesecake and stargazing on her favourite koppie, the South African colloquialism for a ‘rocky outcrop’, in Pridelands. We wish Yuka the happiest of birthdays and trust that her next 12 months will be just as glorious as the previous 312 have been!

In addition to birthday festivities, the pack has had more excitement in the form of new members. We have three fantastic gentlemen to introduce to you.

Dean Marais

We welcome Dean Marais who has joined in the role of ‘tech administrator’. Dean has worked in the tech industry for several years but never from the African bush. Finding himself in a position to try new things, Dean has come on board and is already being challenged and inspired by all the new factors one must contemplate when operating technology from the wild.

Matthew Gie is our next pack member to be introduced. Born and raised in Cape Town, Matthew has tinkered with film since he was in school. He started live streaming school sport in 2015 and has grown his trade since then. This is his first wildlife gig and after manning the camera on a Private Virtual Safari last week, we are excited for what he brings to the team.

Matthew Gie
Dylan Carvalho

Dylan Carvalho is our final introduction for this month. Dylan joins us on his EcoTraining placement as part of the ‘work experience’ component of EcoTrainings ‘PFG’ course. He is a bush enthusiast from Zurich who has keen interests in photography, presenting, and writing. You will be hearing from Dylan in the segment ‘An Intern Out and About’, so keep reading if you’re interested in an intern’s experiences as a painted pup.

Production Punts

Being a film company, production endeavours continue to develop and there is always something new waiting in the wings. In addition to the live streams, the fortnightly AWL, the Hukamuri feature, and the various live cams, we also released two videos. A highlights reel of the live rhino dehorning and a short video on the Rietspruit crocodile reintroduction were made available on our YouTube channel.

Another thrilling development is that our hyena den cam is getting an upgrade! We are excited to be in the testing stages of a new camera. The new camera upgrade will allow viewers autonomy over where they choose to point the camera, effectively making you your own ‘zoomie’. We would like to say a special thanks to Julie McInnes along with Toni Fisher, Belinda Chotoo, Jackie Porter, Joanne E Leonard, K Pels, Luca Schmitt, Michael Walsh, Phyllis Morefield, Sharon ST. Germain, Victoria Staal, Anna Kenward, Ashley Russom, CJ ‘RunninL8’, Jason Short, Kathy Knudsen, Mary Baker, Phil Benn, Sandra Kendrick, and Sue H who are the generous sponsors of this camera. 

An Intern Out & About – Dylan Carvalho from EcoTraining

Dylan Carvalho

After an exciting phone call with the CEO of, Brent Leo-Smith, it was confirmed! I felt joy pulse through my veins as my dreams of working with a wildlife film crew were coming to fruition.

Above is a paraphrase of a note I wrote in my diary just before my placement started with Now two weeks into the placement, I have immersed myself into life on Pridelands Conservancy. 

For the past six months, I have been to several destinations learning about the bush, including Kenya and South Africa. I enjoyed my time, yet something was not right, something was missing. I pursued the training with EcoTraining not to become a regular guide, but to use the knowledge learnt to predict and better understand animal behaviour and therefore be able to create greater video and photographic content. 

Here at, I can live my passion for film and photography out as I help the crew with all sorts of tasks, from checking the live cameras for interesting clips, to serving as a presenter in front of the cameras. Being on the front lines with a professional filming crew has always been a dream of mine, especially with a focus on wildlife. 

Just the other day we were on the lookout for a lion pride. After following the tracks and driving for hours we narrowed the area down to one patch in a drainage system. On foot we further investigated the tracks, realising we were very close. Just as we walked up the drainage line we got charged by a lioness. Her growling made her presence obvious, as we could not see any of the lions due to the thick bush. Later we found her tracks from the charge no more than 10m away from where we were. It amazes me how an entire lion pride can be right in front of you yet concealed in the bush! 

There is still much to learn and observe, mistakes and failures that will follow, but I feel confident that there is no better place to learn these lessons than at My excitement from when I wrote in my diary has only grown and I am thrilled to spend the next six months learning everything I can from the crew!

What to look forward to in April

With March 2021 behind us, we look forward to the exciting prospects that come with the advent of April. For one thing, we intend to make history again as we travel to AndBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve to do the first live broadcast of an elephant relocation.

With this in the offing, and various other wild antics that are bound to unfold, make sure you have your app at the ready and are signed up to our mailers list (via , because April is bulging with adventure.

Thank you also to our generous Patrons and our sponsors – LedLenser SARogue Outdoor GearUntamed Brewing Company – as well as Pridelands Conservancy and Kwenga Lodge, where you will find our ‘dog den’. And of course, to all our supporters for running with the pack.

Be sure to keep an eye on the app, as well as on YouTube, Instagram on @painteddogtv, and Facebook.

A special thanks to

Follow her journey on Instagram @vicvic_craddock2.0 and TikTok @vicvic_craddock2.0

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