We rely on dogs for many things. Besides being wonderful pets, dogs can also hold countless important jobs – including very important work in wildlife conservation efforts. And in South Africa, where rhino poaching is a big problem, there is one group of dogs trained in protecting wildlife, who have managed to guard the lives of 45 rhinos against poachers.
These dogs have been trained since they were puppies, and they’re more than capable of handling the pressures of their missions. The group of dogs is a mix of breeds – ranging from bloodhounds to beagles. They’re all vital members of the anti-poaching K9 fast response unit. And, according to a report, they received their training at the Southern African Wildlife College in Greater Kruger National Park.
They received their training from K9 Master Johan van Straaten and Cape Town-based photographer Sean Viljoen, who shared pictures of the dogs in action within the South African Wildlife College.
Johan van Straaten 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.”
Johan stated that the dogs’ success rate was about 68% in the areas patrolled by the South African Wildlife College patrol. Johan believes that free tracking dogs have made the real difference since they can track at speeds much faster than any human.
Explained Johan, “Over the past decade over 8,000 rhinos have been lost to poaching making it the country hardest hit by this poaching onslaught. The project is helping ensure the survival of southern Africa’s rich biodiversity and its wildlife including its rhino which has been severely impacted by wildlife crime.”
South Africa faces a huge poaching problem given that 80% of the world’s rhino population lives within South Africa. As a result, the past few decades have seen more than 8,000 rhinos have been hunted and killed by rhinos – with South Africa having the highest concentration of all countries.
Based on reports by the WWF, African rhinos are under the critically endangered classification since only a few over 5,000 still live in the wild. But not all hope is lost yet, as the “Save The Rhino” charity, since 2015, has noted a downward turn of rhino deaths. Hopefully, this means the turn will continue, and the rhinos can make a comeback. But until then, thank you to these dogs who are helping to protect the rhinos.