It’s no longer “Jock of the Bushveld” – but “Jack of the Bushveld”.
That’s Jack the anti-poaching rhino dog who is being trained to go into the bush to sniff out and seize poachers who are tracking down and killing or maiming rhinos.
The Belgian malinois has been donated to anti-poaching body StopRhinoPoaching.com by Mechem, who train detection dogs. As well as human-scent tracking, nine-month-old Jack is also being trained in rhino-horn detection and ammunition detection.
While there are already trained “endangered species dogs” in the field, Elise Daffue from StopRhinoPoaching.com said they believed Jack was the first dog to be trained specifically for anti-rhino poaching.
He has already started his puppy training and will move on to “big school” or serious anti-poaching training at around 14 months old.
During puppy training, Jack is being taken out and about, from schools to shopping malls, to get him used to being in different environments.
“He’s a very spirited and extremely friendly dog and he has to get used to going into a pre-school with lots of little ones patting him, as well as going into the bush and chasing poachers,” said Daffue.
Experts say a dog will act as an early warning and safety barrier for rangers and handlers. Poachers are becoming more heavily armed and there have been reported incidents where some poachers even carry hand grenades.
While the poachers cut the horn on the downed rhino, the rest of the group lie in ambush in case the field rangers come upon them and this is where the value of a well trained dog is immeasurable.
A handler and dog need a strong bond so that the handler will pick up almost imperceptible signs that a dog gives while walking or tracking. For example, a dog may lift his tail when he has a strong scent, or lift an ear if there are animals near by, or the hair on his back raises if people are close by.
When there is contact, the dog can go forward and distract poachers, giving the rangers an advantage. The early warning and scent tracking ability of dogs gives rangers an edge at night which is mostly when poachers are active in the field.
Dogs are also more effective in following tracks and less susceptible to anti-tracking decoys as they follow the scent.
Meanwhile, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife reported yesterday that two rhino carcasses were found in iMfolozi Game Reserve on Thursday. The carcasses were found 300 metres apart from each other.