WATCH: Dogs help to combat rhino poaching gangs

Highly trained animals placed on reserves in Eastern Cape

Nine specialised anti-rhino poaching dogs have been deployed across the Eastern Cape, with three more expected to join their ranks soon.

By April 12, the highly trained dogs, consisting of various breeds including Malinois, bloodhounds, German and Belgian Shepherds, will have been deployed to various game reserves across the province.

The nine dogs already deployed are on reserves stretching from East London to Grahamstown and Cradock.

Last year, 1 054 rhinos were killed in South Africa, compared with 1 175 in 2015 – marking a small decline in poaching.

A record 19 rhinos were killed in the Eastern Cape last year. There have been no poaching incidents in the province this year.

K-9 Detection and Protection Services owner and trainer Aidon Lippstreu said the dogs were an asset in the war against poaching.

Each dog undergoes several months of training to track poachers hiding on reserves.

The dogs are deployed on both state-owned and private reserves.

For security reasons, The Herald has agreed not to name the reserves.

Lippstreu said the training of each dog costs an estimated R100 000.

“The training cost varies based on what the dog needs to be trained to do,” he said.

“The training is rigorous and the dogs need to be desensitised to the smells of other game and animals commonly found on farms.

“I train them from puppies and they eventually enter more advanced training.”

Lippstreu said while rhino poaching was the dogs’ key focus, there were other spin-offs.

“The dogs also look for animal snares set by small-game poachers as well as holes in fences and so on,” he said.

Several courses were held on a number of farms to train the dog handlers.

“Like a person, dogs need to be taught and what they have learnt needs to be drilled into them by means of repetitiveness.”

On Monday, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said there had been a noticeable decrease in killings in the Kruger National Park and Mpumalanga province but an upsurge in poaching in other provinces.

Non-profit organisation Chipembere Rhino Foundation director Brent Cook said K9 units were a vital part of any anti-poaching unit.

“It brings a specialised skill set to the reserve and boosts a poaching unit’s effectiveness, particularly when tracking suspects,” he said.

“The sheer presence of a K9 team working on a reserve is a visual deterrent and must never be underestimated.

“Regardless of syndicate movements across provinces, the Eastern Cape reserves need to remain in a continued state of preparedness.

“The Eastern Cape needs to continue adopting the same effective measures taken by other provinces which have been hammered by poaching.”

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