It is well known that the combination of a trained dog handler and his dog is a powerful weapon against crime. With the handler’s knowledge of crime, his reasoning and alert mind, backed-up by the dog’s discriminating nose, its superior sense of hearing, better eyesight, agility, power and trainability, they form a very effective team.
The Rhino Dogs Project will bring this effective team formula face to face against rhino poachers on the frontlines.
How do dogs add value to anti-poaching activities?
Dogs act as an early warning and safety barrier for the rangers and handlers. It seems as if the poachers are becoming more heavily armed and there are situations where some poachers even carry hand grenades with them. While the poachers cut the horn on the downed rhino the rest of the group lays an ambush in case the field rangers come upon them. This is where the value of a well trained dog is immeasurable. A handler and dog have to have an incredible bond so that the handler would note any warning sign that a dog gives whist walking or tracking. For example my dog will lift his tail when he has a strong scent, he will lift his ear if there are animals near by and the hair on his back raises if there are people close by. Something that is often overlooked is that anti-rhino poaching is often conducted in big five areas and the warning that the dogs provide is immensely valuable to the safety of the field rangers.
In situations where there is contact the dog can go forward and distract the poachers giving the field rangers an advantage. The early warning and scent tracking ability of the dogs give us an edge at night which is mostly when poachers are active in the field.
Dogs are also more effective in following tracks and are less susceptible to anti-tracking decoys as they follow the scent straight through.
In conclusion like most things, dogs are not infallible, but they can be an effective part of a multi-faceted defence (trained field rangers, appropriate equipment, dogs, communication, intelligence and support).
- written by David Powrie, SSW Operations Manager
Rhino Dogs will be trained to specialise in each of the following fields:
Human Scent Tracking: Locating poachers by following their spoor in the bush.
Protection: A dog can be taught to protect and defend his handler and those around him. Handlers are taught when its safe (and appropriate) to send a dog in. The safety of the dog is of utmost importance.
Detection of ammunitions: Poachers often stash their weapons, especially if there is a chance of being arrested. Locating these weaops is vital to linking the poachers to an incident, or the weapon / poachers to any previous incidents.
Rhino horn detection: This is useful when horns could have been stashed for a later pick-up, or to detect horns during road blocks or at reserve security check points.