April 21, 2021

Dogs Trained To Protect Wildlife Save 45 Rhinos From Poachers

It’s no coincidence that dogs are considered man’s best friends. But surely enough, if treated and trained properly, they can be very protecting of other animals as well. They are loyal, smart, sometimes childish and dorky, but they always have your back even in the hardest of times.

The dogs, who vary from a beagle to a bloodhound, began training from birth before working at 18 months-old at the Southern African Wildlife College in Greater Kruger National Park.

This K9 fast response unit operating in South Africa always has the backs of their humans when fighting poachers and protecting wildlife, and even do a much better job than their humans. Turns out, in the areas where the Southern African Wildlife College patrol, the success rate of the dogs is around 68 percent, compared to only between three to five percent success rate when there are no doggos around.

A group of dogs has been trained to protect wildlife since they were puppies

Credits: Caters

Sean Viljoen, who is based in Cape Town, shared photographs of the dogs in action at the Southern African Wildlife College in Greater Kruger National Park.

The 29-year-old is the owner of a production company called Conservation Film Company which aims to bring cinematic storytelling to the characters on the frontline of conservation and share stories of hope.

Johan van Straaten, who is a K9 Master at the college, said: “The data we collect for this applied learning project aimed at informing best practice, shows we have prevented approximately 45 rhino being killed since the free tracking dogs became operational in February 2018.

They’ve already saved 45 rhinos in South Africa from being poached

Credits: Caters

“In the areas where the Southern African Wildlife College patrol, the success rate of the dogs is around 68 percent using both on and off-leash free tracking dogs, compared to between three to five percent with no canine capacity.

“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 rhino.

“Over the past decade over 8,000 rhinos have been lost to poaching making it the country hardest hit by this poaching onslaught.”

No breed is too small for the K9 fast response unit—the group of dogs ranges from beagles to bloodhounds

Credits: Caters

“K9 Master” Johan van Straaten from Southern African Wildlife College in Greater Kruger National Park trains the dogs to handle all kinds of pressure

Credits: Caters

Their mission is very important, since South Africa holds 80% of the world’s rhino population

Credits: Caters

“In the areas where the Southern African Wildlife College patrol, the success rate of the dogs is around 68 percent using both on and off leash free tracking dogs,” said van Straaten

Credits: Caters

The dogs which include a Texan Black-and-Tan Coonhounds, Belgian Malinois, Foxhounds, and Blue Ticks are trained to ‘benefit required counter-poaching initiatives’ which includes free tracking, incursion, detection, patrol and apprehension dogs.

He also stated that patrols with no canine capacity only have a success rate of three to five percent

Credits: Caters

He adds: “They begin training from birth and are socialized from a very young age. They learn how to track, bay at a person in a tree and follow basic obedience.”

“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.”

“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,” he said

Credits: Caters

Turns out, South Africa is the country hit hardest by rhino poachers, so there’s no better place for such a project to take place

Credits: Caters