Dogs are the most loyal friends we will ever have. They are caring, lovely and warm. Dogs are usually smaller than a rhino, but they can definitely protect one.
Rhino poaching is a major concern in Africa. Authorities have been struggling with poachers since 2008. The population of rhinos has seen a decline, and the number of killed animals has increased since 2015. In 2015, 1,349 rhinos have been killed. In the past decade, poachers have killed or traded over 8,000 rhinos.
Poachers haven’t made a step back, and they keep killing animals. The WWF reports that rhinos are listed as critically endangered animals. There are just 5,000 rhinos in the wild today.
About 80% of all rhinos live in South Africa. In 2019, over 250 people were arrested for poaching and trading rhinos.
The Greater Kruger National Park is the home of thousands of rhinos. It happens to be the biggest game reserve in South Africa. It was built on May 31, 192. The National Parks Act supported the merging of Shingwedzi and Sabie Game Reserves. About 150 mammals, 500 birds and 100 reptiles live in the area.
How do they protect the park? The Southern African Wildlife College trains dogs. This act is part of the project run by the College and Ivan Carter Wildlife Conservation Alliance.
Johan van Straaten is the K9 Master. According to him, dogs have saved about 45 rhinos since 2018.
Sean Viljoen is a 29-year-old photographer from Cape Town, and he made the most beautiful pics at the South African Wildlife College.
“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,” he said.
“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. 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.”
Bloodhounds, beagles, Belgian Malinois, Foxhounds, Blue Ticks, and many others breeds protect the park. Dogs take part in classes of free tracking, incursion, detection, patrol and apprehension.
“They begin training from birth and are socialized from a very young age,” Johan van Straaten said. “They learn how to track, bay at a person in a tree and follow basic obedience. 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.”
On May 7th, the Southern African Wildlife College celebrated the first birthday of black and tan hound puppies. In six months, the pups will join their older buddies.