PICS: Specially trained free-running dogs from US to join the fight against poaching in Kruger

2018-07-06 11:46 - Gabi Zietsman
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pack of hound dogs tracking in the wild

If you see rogue dog in Kruger National Park, don't worry - they're on the hunt for poachers.

Ten anti-poaching pooches arrived in SA earlier this week to join the Southern African Wildlife College's K9 unit in Kruger National Park.

What makes these dogs special is that they are trained to run in a pack to track and take down poachers in a wildlife reserve, a new method that's gaining traction in the fight against wildlife crime.

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

Normally tracker dogs are on leashes, but in a pack these dogs can cover 30km of difficult terrain in two hours, while rangers follow them from the air, reducing their tracking time. They will also be able to keep poachers at bay while the rangers are en route.

“We are incredibly excited to be working with these dogs. Our early successes with free-running pack dogs have shown us how effective they are in the field. These dogs are also trained in apprehension work and will actively help rangers stop poachers in their tracks,” said the college CEO, Theresa Sowry.

WATCH: First anti-poaching dog to skydive

pack of hound dogs tracking in the wild

(Photo: Southern African Wildlife College)

The new furry companions are a hound breed crossed between black and tan, and redbone, specifically used in the US to track law-evading humans.

For now the college, which is a non-profit organisation that provides conservation training, will be working with them to get them ready to be deployed in Kruger and enhance the K9 unit's efficiency.

There is potential for this type of programme with tracker dogs to be expanded to other parts of Africa facing the threat of poaching on a daily basis.

SEE: #ShockWildlifeTruths: Kenya erects tombstone for Sudan as SADC strengthens fight against poaching

pack of hound dogs tracking in the wild

(Photo: Southern African Wildlife College)

As their success grows, however, Sowry notes that this will also put a target on the dogs' backs, thus there's will be an increased need for security upgrades where the dogs are based.

“They’re real conservation heroes that complement the work being done by field rangers, through aerial support and within communities, as part of our four-tiered approach to counter poaching. We can’t wait to see what these new additions from the US bring to the team.”

SEE: How SA's young Environmental Monitors are fighting wildlife crimes

pack of hound dogs tracking in the wild

Dog Master Johan van Straaten working with a dog and a handler in a training. (Photo: Southern African Wildlife College)