Working with dogs to protect wildlife
Credit Jamie Gaymer, Ol Jogi
In April, we funded the Working Dog Workshop in Johannesburg, South Africa. More than 40 delegates from across 13 different African countries came together to discuss how best to use dogs to protect wildlife. Our Fundraising Officer, Michaela, highlights the importance of dog squads and why sharing information between countries will help to protect rhinos.
The workshop brought to life the incredible impact of dogs being deployed to track down poachers and detect illegal substances such as rhino horn, in turn helping to apprehend criminals and disrupt illegal wildlife trade.
Some dogs can be trained to recognise a scent that poacher left behind (such as footprint, piece of clothing or a gun) and follow the track of the scent for long hours, across rough terrain and in extreme weather conditions, until they catch the suspects at the end of the track. These dogs are trained to help rangers uncover where poaching gangs might be hiding; these skills are essential as rangers are tasked with protecting wildlife across vast areas, and often with limited budgets and equipment.
Other dogs are trained to distinguish different scents and indicate their source. These dogs can detect explosives, narcotics, or different wildlife products and bush meat, all which is often illegally trafficked through airports, in cargos or vehicles, or hidden away in houses or elsewhere. Handlers and their dogs can search in all these environments to detect these illegal substances, such as rhino horn, and expose criminals.
In some countries, dog’s skills are not as well and widely understood as here in our dog-loving nation in the UK. To help enhance the understanding of dog squads and their skills, rangers often organise public demonstrations to showcase the work of dogs in protecting wildlife and apprehending poachers. This helps build trust between rangers, their dog squads, and local communities and law enforcement agencies. As rangers share their stories of successful operations, others can better understand and value the work of dogs in protecting wildlife and apprehending criminals.
The Working Dog Workshop in Johannesburg helped to bring together field programmes from across Africa to share knowledge and experience of working with dog squads, and to learn from each other’s expertise to help overcome their challenges.
We were proud to fund, and support the coordination of this Workshop, and we hope that all participants will be bringing valuable learnings back with them to share with their teams in their respective countries.