The reason dogs are called man’s best friends is because they complete us and make us better beings. When Kruger Park’s rangers saw that the illegal poaching is getting out of hands, they’ve established a K9 unit that quickly proved itself as being very effective.
Kruger National Park is a safe haven for countless creatures who call the park their home. Sadly, many of these animals are targeted by greedy poachers, who kill them solely to make a few extra bucks. The selfless rangers of Kruger National Park tried to fight the poaches for decades. Unfortunately, the selfless rangers failed to fully neutralize the problem. That was until they’ve established The Southern African Wildlife College in Greater Kruger National Park.
Since it became operational in February 2018, Kruger Park’s K9 fast response unit, successfully saved the lives of 45 rhinos. The doggos have a success rate of a staggering 68 percent, compared to only 3-5% when the rangers attempt to capture the poachers on their own.
When asked about the dog’s training routine, Johan van Straaten, a ‘K9 Master’ at the park’s college, said: “They begin training from birth and are socialized from a very young age. They learn how to track, bay at a person in a tree, and follow basic obedience.” Once the dogs finish their ‘basic training’ they move on to perform more complex tasks. “At six months we put all that training together more formally—they do have the necessary skill set to do the work at a younger age but are not mature enough to handle all the pressures of real operations. Depending on a number of factors, dogs become operational at around 18 months old.”
Van Straaten then continued to talk about the unit’s undeniable success. “The data we collect for this applied learning project, aimed at informing best practice, shows we have prevented approximately 45 rhinos being killed since the free tracking dogs became operational in February 2018.” He continued: “The game-changer has been the free tracking dogs who are able to track at speeds much faster than a human can, in terrain where the best human trackers would lose spoor.”
Kruger Park’s (relatively) new K9 unit has a lot of work ahead of them. South Africa is home to 80% of the world’s rhino population, many of which live within the park’s borders.
Keep up the good work!
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