Poachers in Kruger National Park pose a serious threat to rhino populations and even the rangers that protect them. But thanks to a pack of trained dogs introduced to the park in 2018, 45 rhinos have been saved from the prying hands of poachers.
The use of dogs to protect rhino populations was a product of a collaboration between the Southern African Wildlife College and Ivan Carter Wildlife Conservation Alliance. The dogs are all trained in high-speed tracking and include doberman-bloodhound mixes as well as malinois, labradors, and spaniels. The dogs sniff out dangerous poachers as well as elephant tusks, rhino horns, and pangolins hidden in poaching vehicles.
With rangers alone, the success rate of stopping poachers is between three and five percent, but with the help of dogs, this number increases to 68 percent. South Africa holds nearly 80 percent of the world’s rhino, but it is also home to diverse ecosystems and rare plants that local wildlife depends on.
Rhinos are especially hard hit by poaching. Over the past decade, over 8,000 rhinos have been lost to poaching, and poachers even killed a ranger in Kruger National Park in 2018. Innovative conservation strategies such as this one are critical for protecting these endangered species from extinction. We have written before about dogs helping out from sniffing out disease to protecting orange trees. Given that the K-9 collaboration has been such a success, hopefully, we will see similar programs implemented in other parks soon.