Dogs are known to be “man’s best friend,” and we often think our dogs will do anything to protect us. As it turns out, dogs will go above and beyond in loyalty for just about any species. And one group of dogs in South Africa does just that, as they tirelessly protect rhinos from poachers.
These dogs are members of an anti-poaching K9 fast response unit. They’ve been trained from the time they were small puppies and are completely dedicated to their life-saving mission. The South African Wildlife College is responsible for training these dogs, ranging in breeds from bloodhounds to beagles.
K9 Master Johan van Straaten and Sean Viljoen work together to train the dogs and prepare them to guard the critically endangered or threatened rhinos. Some dogs are even trained with special tasks, like finding rhino calves who’ve been orphaned due to poaching.
According to DailyMail, Johan van Straaten said, “The data we collect for this applied learning project aimed at informing best practice, shows we have prevented approximately 45 rhino being killed since the free tracking dogs became operational in February 2018.”
Johan went on to say that the dogs’ success rate is around 68% in the areas they patrol. The dogs can track poachers and animals in need at a much faster rate than humans, and Johan believes it’s making a massive difference in their conservation efforts.
As Johan shared with DailyMail, “Over the past decade over 8,000 rhinos have been lost to poaching making it the country hardest hit by this poaching onslaught. The project is helping ensure the survival of southern Africa’s rich biodiversity and its wildlife including its rhino which has been severely impacted by wildlife crime.”
Around 80% of the world’s rhino population resides in South Africa and it’s an area heavily plagued with poachers.
South Africa is home to black and white rhinos. According to IUCN’s red list, black rhinos are critically endangered with only 3,142 of them left, though their populations are slowly increasing due to conservation efforts. White rhinos are near threatened and have a population of 10,080, but their numbers are still decreasing.
Hopefully, both rhino populations will continue to grow as efforts are made by wonderful groups like the Wildlife College and their K-9 units.
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