#ShockWildlifeTruths: New K9 Unit in KZN locates poisoned vulture carcasses within first month

2017-12-08 12:30 - Gabi Zietsman
Post a comment 0
Project Rhino/Chris Galliers

Project Rhino/Chris Galliers

Cape Town - Project Rhino's new K9 unit has proven its worth already by locating poisoned carcasses that put white-back vultures at risk.

The unit was set up to stop wildlife crime in KwaZulu-Natal, plagued by rhino and other wildlife poaching. The critically endangered vultures are often targeted for illegal use in traditional medicine, which has caused a drastic decline in the population.

WATCH: A day in the life of a ranger's dog

The poisoned carcasses were discovered near Hluhluwe, the headquarters for conservation efforts.

The organisation's four-legged team has already been active on duty at SAPS road blocks, reserve vehicle checks and night patrols.  They help out private, state and community-owned reserves, specifically focusing on rhino, which has lost 200 of its provincial population this year.

Project Rhino

Project Rhino/Chris Galliers

“Dogs have proved to be an essential tool to fight wildlife crime by tracking down poachers, detecting wildlife products and recovering illegal weapons and ammunition. Project Rhino has been working towards implementing a dog unit that will service the needs of reserves, functioning effectively within the unique Zululand landscape, says Project Rhino's coordinator Chris Galliers.

"We hope to grow the team, using trained and certified tracking dogs to assist in tracking and locating suspects as well as gathering important intelligence."

Mali, a three-year-old Belgian Shepard, and his handler with 26 years' experience are a super team, tracking suspects and sniffing out crimes scenes, buildings and outdoor locations.

SEE: ShockWildlifeTruths: SANParks has its eye on 'crook rangers working with poachers'

Project Rhino
Project Rhino/Chris Galliers

SEE: #ShockWildlifeTruths: Project Rhino’s call to dehorn rhino

Another dog unit, made up of five dogs, have also been deployed to work exclusively in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park and works in partnership with Dunadventures Africa and WESSA Lowveld.

“In my experience, dogs are very useful, especially in areas where people cannot see tracks from poachers. Dogs at the gates are also very helpful for detecting ammunition and rhino horn.” Musa Mbatha, assistant reserve manager at Phinda Private Game Reserve. 

Keeping the unit up and running will cost approximately R1,2 million, and the public can make donations here or can contact them if veterinary supplies or dog food can be donated.

What to read next on Traveller24

Western Cape readies for its 'worst fire season yet' due to drought

Uber suspended in second UK city

The Durban art gallery is unmissable and the coffee’s good too