With rhino poaching still a huge threat to the specie’s survival trained dogs are proving themselves in the rhino wars.
Sophie, Dozer and Killer. While they may not be household names, these soldiers (and countless others) are currently serving on the front lines in the rhino wars across Africa.
Move Over Oxpecker
Sophie, Dozer and Killer and friends are among Africa’s weapons against poachers and the rhino’s new best friend. These dogs are currently taking a “bite” out of poaching–and a few poachers–along the way.
Security dogs could be found at camps for years, but the “escalating poaching crisis“ led to the creation of a new role for the dogs.
Poachers will be Poached
According to The Guardian:
- At least 6,000 African rhinos have been slaughtered since 2008.
- 1,338 rhinos were killed in 2015.
- South Africa is home to more than 90% of the 20,000 surviving white rhinos and almost half of 4,800 remaining black rhinos.
- Over 70% of the rhinos killed occurred in Kruger National Park in South Africa.
To prepare these dogs for ‘battle,’ training centers have popped up throughout the continent over the past couple years, all with the same goal–save the rhino from extinction.
Protected from predators by an 8,000-volt electric fence, the canines are trained to track and “detect poached horns and weapons” or for “bite work” aka catching poachers.
All this just for an animal’s horn that is made from the same material found in human hair and fingernails?
The dogs are a “new way of capturing poachers, for whom vast criminal profits are at stake: rhino horn is more valuable by weight than gold, diamonds and cocaine.”
Leader of the Pack
One international headline you may have missed but was covered in the Daily Mirror earlier this year was about Killer.
A member of Kruger National Park’s Special Operations Team, the five-year-old Belgian Malinois has led to the arrest of 115 poachers in four years.
For his heroic feats in the bush, Killer was awarded The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals PDSA Gold Medal–England’s highest honor a civilian animal can receive.
Presenting Killer his award was English comedian/actor and animal advocate Ricky Gervais, who commented: “Killer does fantastic work…rhino’s are wonderful creatures that are being killed in their hundreds by these poachers.”
Echoing Gervais’ comments was PDSA Director General Jan McLoughlin. The PDSA Gold Medal recognizes “extraordinary acts of courage and dedication in life-threatening situations, and Killer is indeed a worthy recipient.”
McLoughlin went onto say, “His contribution to saving the rhino population has been truly remarkable. His track-record is astounding and we are honored to recognize his fantastic work in this way.”
Back at school, Sophie and Dozer are busy training and will soon be serving in the bush and on the front lines. During some downtime, one of their trainers throws a ball out to be retrieved by the enthusiastic dogs.
Most rangers on the front lines of the rhino wars would agree that their reward in fighting this war is to save the rhino. The dogs are different. They don’t know what “extinction” or “forever” means, but their commitment to ending this war is no different.
“This [rhino population] is our legacy and we have to look after it.”
“We”–meaning both man and dog [aka best friend to man and rhino].