Canine poacher trackers are real heroes of the battle to save our rhino

By Leletu Gxuluwe Time of article published Sep 13, 2016

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by Leletu Gxuluwe

Cape Town - The real heroes of the anti-poaching efforts in the Kruger National Park are the dogs of the canine unit tasked with sniffing out poachers and tracking them down for arrest.

“These dogs, along with their handlers and the rangers, risk their lives every day to save our precious rhinos,” Africa Geographic general manager Janine Avery said.

“Much time and money goes into training and maintaining these dogs, and many of the successful poacher arrests have been due to these hardworking dogs.”

Africa Geographic, a conservation advocacy organisation and travel magazine, is calling on South Africans to donate food for the dogs of the K9 unit on #WorldRhinoDay on September 22.

“If you love dogs and our rhinos, simply donate a bag of food and we will make sure it gets to the rhino dogs,” Avery said.

The dog food drive runs from September 22 until September 30, and there are a wide range of drop-off venues across the country. “Please only purchase Hill’s Performance or Hill’s Advanced Fitness, as this is what the dogs are used to, and any change in diet can affect them. These hard-working dogs need very specific and reliable food that consistently provides all the nutrients and energy they need.”

These foods are designed for very active, working dogs, with not only extra protein and energy, but also the correct minerals and antioxidants.

Kruger’s canine unit has 52 dogs operating in a Big Five area that many conservationists now refer to as a “war zone”. These dogs perform a number of different functions, including the tracking of poachers in the park and the detection of contraband at ­entrance and exit points.

The dogs spend a great deal of time with their handlers and become seamless units which help hunt down poachers. Some of the dogs have even caught poachers and held them for long enough for the ranger to catch up and make the arrest.

The dogs face many dangers in their daily activities, including being shot at while chasing poachers.

“While the dogs are lovingly cared for by the team in the Kruger National Park, the cost of fighting the rhino poaching crisis is so extremely high that any funding has a variety of resources it needs to be spread between.”

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