Over the past decade, over 8,000 rhinos have been lost to poaching making South Africa the hardest hit by this poaching onslaught.
Image Source: Instagram / Sean Viljoen
It has been said since time immemorial that dog is a man's best friend and this statement rings true more times than we can count. Dogs are smart, loyal, and act like absolute goofballs sometimes, but there is no denying that they are the most loyal species out there. A pack of trustworthy canines in South Africa has proven that not only are they a man's best friend, but they are also the best friends of endangered wildlife as well.
According to a report by Bored Panda, a pack of dogs has been training since they were puppies and were taught how to handle pressures of real operation. Many breeds of dogs, from beagles to bloodhounds have been used to protect endangered species from poachers. These dogs were trained at the Southern African Wildlife College in Greater Kruger National Park, reported Daily Mail.
They were trained by K9 Master’ Johan van Straaten and Cape Town-based photographer Sean Viljoen shared the pictures of these super-smart dogs in action at the South African Wildlife College. Viljoen owns a production company called Conservation Film Company and he uses his visual medium to share stories of hope. Johan van Straaten, a K9 trainer at the college 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."
Pack of dogs trained to protect wildlife have saved 45 rhinos from being poached https://t.co/7L2nnwI3OW— Philip Morris (@phil500) May 13, 2020
He continued, "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. 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."
He further added, "As such, 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 holds nearly 80 percent of the world's rhino. Over the past decade, over 8,000 rhinos have been lost to poaching making it the country hardest hit by this poaching onslaught."
Van Straaten said they train Texan black-and-tan coonhounds, Belgian Malinois, foxhounds, and blue ticks. He continued, "They begin training from birth and are socialized from a very young age. They learn how to track, bay at a person in a tree, and follow basic obedience." In case you didn't know, South Africa is the worst-affected country when it comes to Rhino poaching, hence it makes for the ideal place to start this project.
Release the hounds Smithers! Packs of dogs have been trained in South Africa to protect wildlife & so far they've saved have saved 45 rhinos from being poached.The illegal wildlife trade spreads diseases like COVID-19. #stopanimaltrafficking https://t.co/tjaRLN9SOh— Julia Bradbury (@JuliaBradbury) May 16, 2020
According to WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature), African rhinos are now classified as critically endangered as just 5,000 of them remain in the world. Van Straaten added, "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."
A pack of dogs that trained to protect wildlife have already saved 45 rhinos from poachers in South Africa. https://t.co/LKuIWm1qlb— Abhishek Joshi 👨💻🐶 (@kaalicharan) May 15, 2020
The success rate of patrol teams with dogs is 68% as compared to 3-5% for teams without canine support. #Poaching #wildlife #conservation pic.twitter.com/PovXngUIyn
According to Save The Rhino, the Department of Environment, Forestry, and Fisheries reported a staggering 594 rhinos were poached in the country in 2019. The poaching numbers shot up in 2014 with as many as 1,215 rhinos were killed. But there is some good news amidst all this gloom. Since 2015, Save the Rhino recorded a significantly lesser number of Rhino deaths, giving this magnificent species a chance of survival.