Hunting with dogs goes back centuries. Some say archeological evidence suggests that as early as 14,000 years ago prehistoric man partnered with dogs to hunt wildlife. Over time it evolved. Dogs were bred specifically to hunt a targeted species…Pointers birds and Hounds wolves for instance.
In Africa today, although colonists bred dogs specifically for hunting (like the Rhodesian Ridgeback) cross breeds are now more commonly used. Dogs are natural predators, and once they’ve tasted blood and raw meat they’re pretty much ready for another kill. There are people living in close proximity to wildlife who take full advantage of this. Sadly, hunting dogs are often starved to increase their urgency to kill.
As you can imagine, being chased and then torn apart is terrifying for the victim. We once observed a large hare racing across an open field close to where we were camped. Not far behind came a pack of three dogs. As the hare disappeared into the brush I thought he was out of harms way. After all, our dogs of the past gave chase to all sorts of wildlife unsuccessfully. However, I’d not seen hunting dogs in action before. Two men followed the dogs into the brush. Shortly afterwards they returned, gleefully raising their ‘catch’ for us to see, the dogs jumping about in anticipation of their share. I recall saying something stupid. It was so upsetting.
Across Africa wildlife hunting with dogs is common. A recent report from a University study in South Africa suggests that Blue Crane and Crowned Crane populations have declined 90% in the last decade due to indiscriminate hunting with dogs. Since our experience with the hare we’ve heard many a story of duiker with young and other antelope falling victim to such brutality. Besides frustrated and nonproductive legal avenues, nobody has offered much of a solution, until now.
Is it possible to stop wildlife hunting with dogs?
Earlier this year (2021), Moses Arineitwe, while out on a pangolin rescue mission learned something disconcerting. Moses lives about 6 kilometers outside of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest in southern Uganda. Although your ordinary village farmer, he has an extra ordinary heart and mission. Moses really cares about preserving wildlife with grassroots, practical solutions.
We met up with him in early 2017 and were astounded that he could convince poachers to trade their spears for shovels. Yes, he actually stops poaching by offering alternative livelihood options. Nikela has helped Moses with building beehives, fish ponds, vegetable farming and even the building of an outdoor restaurant.
On the afore mentioned pangolin rescue mission Moses got wind that those hunting with dogs were also harming pangolin. Even if not targeting pangolin, hunting dogs are indiscriminate and ravenously hungry, usually killing anything they flush out of the bush.
Moses reached out to us with a plan, a workshop. At first I was dubious, but Moses persisted and the first workshop resulted in 35 poachers pledging to give up hunting with dogs.
First successful “Stop Wildlife Hunting with Dogs” Workshop
The workshop which included 75 people from five villages was held at the reformed poachers’ restaurant. 35 poachers were convinced and pledged to stop hunting with dogs. 17 dogs were present at the workshop. For now these dogs will strictly be used as guard dogs and fed appropriately (what to do with ‘retired hunting dogs’ may well be the biggest challenge.) Four spears, three wire snares and one metal trap were handed over to the two Ugandan Wildlife Authority wardens and one police officer who were also present.
What did they cover at the workshop?
Moses is very practical and visionary. He talks of his dream to see wildlife and humans live in harmony. His dream to invite tourists visiting the nearby National Park to stop by their villages and spend money. He encourages and provides assistance with crafts, gardening, fish farming, bee keeping and hospitality. He tells listeners that if the animals are gone so will the tourists, and the villages’ future. His people listen.
Second “Stop Wildlife Hunting with Dogs” Workshop
The first weekend in April (2021) Moses is holding another workshop for five more villages. All this naturally costs money. Getting reformed poachers started with alternative livelihoods cost money. Your support, large or small is greatly appreciated.
Please join us in supporting this win-win situation. Reformed poachers learning new skills to provide for their families. Wildlife not being brutally killed by hunting dogs.
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