Veterinarian António Paulo “Tonecas” receives Wild Dog leadership award

Senior Wildlife Veterinarian and Manager Dr. António Paulo “Tonecas”  is one of the first in a new generation of young Mozambicans leading the management of their nation’s protected areas.

He’s also the newest recipient of the Wild Dog Advisory Group of South Africa’s leadership award.

“António Paulo is a qualified wildlife veterinarian and a dedicated and passionate conservationist,” said Paola Bouley, associate director of wildlife conservation. “He continues to go above and beyond the call of duty in his work. His role now includes mentoring emerging young wildlife veterinarians and ecologists from Mozambique.”

António Paulo “Tonecas” is 28 years old and was born and raised in the Buzi District of central Mozambique. Urged by his grandmother who recognized his passion for animals at an early age, he attended the University of Eduardo and completed a degree in veterinary medicine in 2016.

In 2017, António Paulo joined the Gorongosa Project for a “Conservation Medicine” internship working primarily with the recovery of the Park’s lion population.

“Before his internship, António Paulo had zero exposure to field-based, wildlife veterinary management but quickly fell in love with the work,” said Bouley.

Within his first year ”Tonecas“ was hired as a full-time wildlife veterinarian and led the collaring, monitoring and care of the Park’s recovering lions, leopards, elephants, pangolins and an array of other species. 

Dr. Mercia Angela and Dr. Paulo Tonecas collar a Park lion prior to release.

But Painted Wolves are Tonecas’ passion. In 2018, he was the lead Park vet for a historic translocation of the first pack of Painted Wolves to Gorongosa National Park. As part of a core team overseeing the pack’s release, “Tonecas“ was responsible for overseeing the health and wellbeing of the pack during and after their boma tenure. He continues to track the growing population (he knows each of the 51 new dogs in the Park by name), including documenting the first three litters of pups born on Gorongosa soil in decades. 

In 2019, the Park received its second pack of Painted Wolves. Once again “Tonecas”oversaw the pack’s arrival and acclimatization prior to release, and continues to lead the field monitoring of the Park’s newly formed population now consisting of five packs.

In 2020, he launched a domestic dog vaccination program for the Park’s Buffer Zone, geared toward preventing the spread of rabies.

The Wild Dog Advisory Group of South Africa (WAG-SA) is a national advisory group bringing together National and provincial government conservation bodies, private and community-owned reserves, leading conservation NGOs and Painted Dog specialists to help advise and manage populations in South Africa.

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