Dogs are our best friends, it’s something we have heard a lot before. They’re smart, loyal, goofy and always have your back.
A K9 response unit in South Africa is making itself known for fighting poachers and protecting wildlife, even better than humans.
Whether Beagle or bloodhound, no dog is too small to be part of the team. They boast a success rate of 68 per cent, compared to the 5 per cent when they aren’t around.
They begin their training when they are just small puppies and grow into adult dogs that provide great assistance to the park rangers.
In fact, they’ve already saved over 45 rhinos from being poached in South Africa.
A ‘K9 Master’ named Johan van Straaten at the college says: “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.”
South Africas is home to 80% of the worlds rhino population, and therefore the job that these dogs do is crucial for their survival.
“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,” van Straaten said.
“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.”
“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,” he explained.
South Africa is hit hardest by rhino poachers due to the high population and high number of poachers, therefore there is nowhere better for this project to be active.
All image credits go to: Caters
“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.”