A group of dogs have been trained to protect wildlife since they were puppies
Turns out, Southern African Wildlife College in Greater Kruger National Park has a K9 fast response unit that is trained to protect wildlife. All kinds of dogs, from beagles to bloodhounds, begin their training there when they’re still just small puppies and grow up to be a great help for park rangers.
They’ve already saved 45 rhinos in South Africa from being poached
No breed is too small for the K9 fast response unit—the group of dogs range from beagles to bloodhounds
Johan van Straaten, 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 rhinos being killed since the free tracking dogs became operational in February 2018.”
“K9 Master” Johan van Straaten from Southern African Wildlife College in Greater Kruger National Park trains the dogs to handle all kinds of pressure
Their mission is very important, since South Africa holds 80% of the world’s rhino population
“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.”
“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
He also stated that patrols with no canine capacity only have a success rate of three to five percent
Van Straaten said they train Texan black-and-tan coonhounds, Belgian Malinois, foxhounds and blue ticks skills that benefit counter-poaching initiatives—free tracking, incursion, detection, patrol, and apprehension dogs. “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.
“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
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
“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.”