Dogs play a huge role in leveraging the fight against illegal poaching of rhinos

South Africa – The crusade to protect animals listed under the threatened or protected species (TOPS) has resulted in more arrests, due in large part to the use of K-9s, along with the Rangers Corp and Airwing, according to World Animal News.

The South African National Parks (SANParks) arrested 9 persons suspected of attempting to poach rhinoceros — three on July 20, three on July 22, and three on July 23. All were found in possession of high calibre hunting rifles, ammunition and poaching equipment.

According to the African Wildlife Foundation, rhinos are considered critically endangered. The black rhino population, in particular, dropped a whopping 97.6 percent since 1960. The rhino has only one predator: Humans.

Rhinos are hunted and killed for their horns, with the majority of the demand coming from Asia, particularly Vietnam, according to Save The Rhino. Their horns are not just used in ornamental carvings, but many Asians hold on to the archaic belief that they have medicinal properties that can “cure snakebites, hallucinations, typhoid, headaches, carbuncles, vomiting, food poisoning, and ‘devil possession’.”

“25092014-DSC_0004-2.jpg” by pslachevsky is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Another major threat to rhinos is habitat loss, as it the case for many wild animal species. Developing lands, roads, agriculture and logging leave little land for wild animal species to thrive.

“Logging Trucks” by D-Stanley is licensed under CC BY 2.0

With the decline in the rhino population, there is little supply. This drives up the price of rhino horns. As a result, poachers can get up to $60,000 per kilo for a rhino horn on the black market, reports Aljazeera. This makes rhino poaching a lucrative endeavor. This incentivizes poachers to take any and all risks associated with these illegal killings. Poachers are even willing to murder rangers to get their hands on rhino horns.

However, the introduction of dogs into the arsenal in the fight against illegal poaching has been a game changer in favor of protecting these lovely beasts. According to NPR, rangers not only rely on high-tech equipment to combat poaching, but dogs have provided an invaluable asset in their efforts.

[D]ogs now assist in 80 percent of arrests — a figure that earns them distinction as ‘the most significant technology currently in the anti-poaching campaign, according to South African National spokesperson Isaac Phaahla.’

Dogs are fiercely loyal. They make wonderful furry family members. Dogs have also served in a variety of areas that benefit humans, beyond being a faithful companion. Dogs are often better at locating victims buried beneath several feet of snow after an avalanche compared to other “high-tech” methods. They can detect illegal substances and contraband on humans, in vehicles, and in homes. They alert epileptic patients to an oncoming seizure. They can detect cancer. These are just a few of the many skills and abilities of the canine species.

In the fight against poaching, dogs can help during vehicle searches and poacher apprehensions by sniffing out elephant tusks, rhino horns and pangolins, which is the most poached mammal in the world, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

Pangolin. “IMG_0454” by sk8mama is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Dogs are also used as “‘on-line tracker,’ part of a specialized team that works with human handlers to track down poachers in the park,” reports NPR.  Referred to as “magnificent animals” by the World Animal News, dogs “are valuable and have become a big game-changer in the anti-poaching campaign.”

The three successful apprehensions in a 3- to 4-day period, resulting in the arrest of 9 suspected poachers, are attributed to man’s best friend, the dog.

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Featured image: “white rhinos” by jng104 is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

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