KwaZulu-Natal wildlife authorities have brought out their top dogs — literally — to protect their rhinos.
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife this week announced that it had formed a dog unit — in partnership with several individuals and organisations — in the hope it will not only protect the endangered animals but also help to catch poachers before they strike.
“The K9 unit has adopted a proactive approach to apprehend poachers before they poach rhinos. Some of the operational expectations regarding this unit is that it is used to intercept poaching groups before they shoot rhino,” Ezemvelo said in a statement.
“The unit also needs to align well with other law-enforcement agencies that are actively involved in combating rhino poaching.”
Dennis Kelly, a section ranger of Ezemvelo’s Hluhluwe/iMfolozi Park (HiP) said: “The use of canines is a very effective tool and has been used successfully in Kruger and in other parts of Africa.”
Dogs are useful in many ways for law enforcement. Their noses — which have 50 times more scent receptors than human noses — are their most valuable tool, allowing them to follow and detect specific scents. This is of crucial importance in combating ever-determined and evolving poaching teams which have become more sophisticated and can easily hide their tracks once they are inside protected areas.”
This dog unit has two handlers, and two “cold scent” dogs which are doberman and bloodhound crosses. These dogs have the ability to follow scents which are up to eight hours old.
Having the dogs on the premises is already yielding results.
“They have carried out numerous interventions which have resulted in three notable successes with three arrests and a number of poaching groups interrupted before they have poached a rhino,” said Ezemvelo.
The dogs’ arrival follows Ezemvelo’s introduction of a hi-tech early detection system known as Smart Park. It alerts authorities based at an operational command centre of any unusual movement. Just like the K9 unit, this system, which uses camera traps and detection fences, was formed courtesy of various partnerships.
Ezemvelo hopes to expand its unit and that these dogs can be used for further tasks, including detection of weapons and animal products at the park entrances and exits.
Source: Times Live
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