By James Kariuki
Laikipia’s Ol Pejeta Wildlife Conservancy will conduct an international art sale to raise funds for the establishment of a dog training unit.
The unit is intended to help combat poaching in Kenya and Africa at large.
Ol Pejeta’s Chief Executive Officer Mr Richard Vigne said they had partnered with a former British military trainer to establish the facility that will see locally trained dogs detect arms and ivory on transit at airports and at the Mombasa Port among other border points.
The unit will also seek to train completely silent dogs for ambush purposes.
It will also train highly talented tracking dogs that will help beef up security in Kenya’s pristine private and public wildlife sanctuaries.
The CEO made the remarks when he lamented the death of a rhino shot dead by poachers last weekend.
The rhino had tried to ward off a pride of lions in order to protect its calf. Instead the lions attacked and seriously injured it.
It was an eight year old female black rhino named Malkia, which had given birth to its first calf exactly a month prior to the attack.
Malkia succumbed to her injuries a day after the attack while undergoing treatment.
“We remain devastated by this loss and you can rest assured that we will continue to review and improve every aspect of our security operations.
POACHING ON THE RISE
Today, poaching has reached unprecedented proportions as the price of rhino horn has surpassed that of gold. Poachers are therefore willing to take greater risks,” he said.
Ex-military trainer, Daryll Pleasants who has volunteered his time and expertise has since launched an international appeal seeking funds from well-wishers to help establish the training unit.
Accomplished artists, painters and photographers have donated their works for sale in an auction to be held this Friday.
“As poachers get more sophisticated and the number of poached rhinos and elephants rises countrywide, Ol Pejeta is constantly looking for ways to tackle this crisis.
We heavily invest in our security department, training not only our rangers but also our dogs, in specialist security tactics,” Mr Pleasants said.
Ol Pejeta’s canine unit is made up of three bloodhounds, an assault dog and a recent addition of 10 Dutch-Malinois Shepard puppies that are used to complement the work of armed rangers within Ol Pejeta and the neighbouring Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.
“The vision is for Ol Pejeta to be a centre of excellence for anti-poaching dog training, helping conservancies throughout Africa.
Dogs will play a big role in saving wildlife as they not only act as deterrents to poachers getting in but also follow and stop those who manage to get into the conservancy,” states Mr Pleasants who runs the UK based White Paw Professional Dog Training firm.
He said White Paw was busy contacting well-known musicians, television personalities, actors, sports men and women among other celebrities across the world for support.
They will do this by drawing a picture of a rhino that can be framed and auctioned in the Ol Pejeta online auction throughout August 2014.
“We hope these one-off doodles will raise significant funds to support the anti-poaching projects at Ol Pejeta, while uniting people to draw attention to the plight of Africa’s rhinos.
Without help, these majestic animals may be extinct from the wild within the next decade,” he said.
Among celebrities who have come on board include English actor Kevin McNally, Ben di Lisi, an American born fashion designer, talented British wildlife sculptors Hamish Mackie and Brian Hollingworth, accomplished wildlife artistes Annabel Pope, Martin Aveling and Gary Hodges, among others.
Billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Balloon Incorporated joins an array of international firms that have teamed up with White Paw as well as local tourist hotels from across the country in supporting the project.