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Anti-Poaching Pooches

22 Sep 2020 | By Author Thornybush | News

Guests on safari are often fascinated by the anti-poaching work that is being done on the Thornybush Nature Reserve. Not only do we have a highly skilled team of soldiers on the ground, but they are often also accompanied by a dog. It is these incredible, brave animals that draw huge amounts of attention and questions.

What is a K9 unit?

The Thornybush anti-poaching squad work very closely with an exceptional team of specially trained dogs, known as the K9 unit. This hardworking dog unit play an ever-increasing role in combating poaching in the Greater Kruger Park region.

These highly trained dogs work on the front-line and are able to track poachers faster and more accurately than any human. Working with a team of dedicated dog handlers, they are fast becoming core members in the fight against conservation crimes.

What are they protecting?

South Africa has the largest population of rhinos in the world and is an incredibly important country for rhino conservation. Sadly, between 2007 and 2014 the country experienced an exponential rise in rhino poaching. The greatest poaching losses have occurred in the Kruger National Park, a protected habitat that is over 19,485 square kilometers!

The Thornybush Nature Reserve is open to the Kruger and serves as a critical buffer zone for the this pristine wilderness area to our east. It is our duty to keep these boundaries protected and secure, an ongoing challenge, but one that the K9 unit is tasked to help with.

What the dogs do

The K9 dogs are not domestic dogs, nor are they wild dogs, rather they are specially trained dogs that have the ability to pick up scent and follow the tracks of wildlife criminals who may  have illegally entered the reserve. They are able to cover huge distances, often through rough terrain, and successfully catch these lawbreakers.  Although dogs have been used for hundreds of years in law enforcement, it is only in more recent times that we have honed in on them as an invaluable resource in conservation law enforcement.

Not all dogs are tracking specialists, some are detection and apprehension dogs. These canines assist with vehicle searches at the Thornybush Nature Reserve entrance gate, and are able to detect weapons, ivory, rhino horn and pangolin.


Training and maintenance

The dogs have to operate at a similar level to top athletes, they need optimal nutrition and regular veterinary care in terms of vaccinations and general health checks. Keeping these specialised animals comfortable, as well as safe and secure, are top of the agenda.

Both the dogs and their handlers require immense specialist training, as well continual re-training. This is in order to keep them top of their game and safe in the field as poachers change their modus operandi constantly.

How can you help?

The K9 unit is an extremely costly facet of the anti-poaching arm. If you would like to help in anyway, from training to assisting with the dogs comfort and well-being, you are welcome to get hold of the Thornybush Nature Reserve warden: Any donation will make a huge difference to our conservation battle and our canine warriors.