By Zipo-Zenkosi Ncokazi
The fight against rhino poaching has been given a boost with specially trained tracker dogs thanks to StopRhinoPoaching.com and its partners.
Elise Daffue from Stoprhinopoaching.com said the ongoing project had begun last year. The dogs are trained at the Mechem Dog unit, which is a division of Denel, a stateowned aerospace and defence technology conglomerate based in Pretoria.
She said length of training varied from dog to dog, and handler training was eight to 10 weeks long.
“We were approached by Mechem, which wanted to get involved and to date we have trained over 20 dogs that have been deployed in over four provinces, including the Eastern Cape, and in Swaziland,” said Daffue.
She said the dogs would assist in tracking and apprehending scent.
“So they’ll follow poacher spoor and find everything he drops along the way as well. This is especially useful as any item can be used as evidence. The majority of our dogs are also trained as apprehension dogs, so, if appropriate, the dog can be released to take someone down.
“We have a few reserves on a waiting list that could really use dogs. These reserves are obviously vetted,” added Daffue.
She said rhino poaching was a growing threat in the Eastern Cape, home to established breeding populations of the endangered black rhino.
“The survival of these unique elements of our natural heritage depends on the antipoaching personnel that guard them, so the tracker dogs will be crucial support as they will help speed up the pursuit,” she said.