Dogs are not only a man’s best friend, but they are also incredibly loyal and safeguarding creatures.
In South Africa, a group of dogs has been professionally trained to protect wildlife.
What’s more, they have already saved 45 rhinos from being smuggled.
The amazingly clever puppers are being trained from birth. They are being taught how to react to all kinds of pressure during real operations even before they start working. Once they are 18-months-old, they are ready to become professional wildlife defenders. They are being trained at the Southern African Wildlife College in Greater Kruger National Park.
Luckily, we can all see their work in progress. Sean Viljoen from Cape Town, South Africa, has shared awesome photographs of the pack in action.
Viljoen, 29, owns a production company called Conservation Film Company. Their core purpose is to cinematically share inspiring stories of the people on the frontline of conservation.
The K9 Master, Johan van Straaten, explained for LADBible:
“The data we collect for this applied learning project, aimed at informing best practice, shows we have prevented approximately 45 rhinos being killed since the free tracking dogs became operational in February 2018.”
Straaten said that in the areas where the college patrols, the packs are doing tremendously great with a success rate of 68%.
“The game-changer has been the free tracking dogs who are able to track at speeds much faster than a human can, in terrain where the best human trackers would lose spoor. As such, the project is helping ensure the survival of southern Africa’s rich biodiversity and its wildlife including its rhino which have been severely impacted by wildlife crime. South Africa holds nearly 80 percent of the world’s rhinos.”
According to the K9 Master, in the past years, over 8,000 rhinos have been lost to poaching, ‘making it the country hardest hit by this poaching onslaught’.
Thankfully, the skillful dogs are doing an amazing job protecting the wildlife in their areas. The pack includes a Texan Black-and-Tan Coonhounds, Belgian Malinois, Foxhounds, and Blue Ticks. They are all trained to ‘benefit required counter-poaching initiatives’.
From a very young age, the puppers are being socialized and trained to track, bay at a person in a tree, and follow basic obedience. Straaten adds:
“At six months we put all that training together more formally – they do have the necessary skill set to do the work at a younger age but are not mature enough to handle all the pressures of real operations. Depending on a number of factors, dogs become operational at around 18 months old.”