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Can Dogs Help Combat Rhino Poaching?


In the last 10 years more than 8,000 rhinos have been poached and killed for their horns in South Africa alone. This doesn’t include the rhinos who have been killed in the rest of Africa and the world. Anti-poaching units (APUs) are now essential to keep rhino safe in every South African private game reserve and national park. These anti rhino-poaching units use various methods to monitor and protect both the critically endangered black rhino or hook-lipped rhinoceros and near threatened white rhinoceros or square-lipped rhino. Read on to find out about an exciting addition to our Kariega Game Reserve APU and find out if dogs can help combat rhino poaching.

Methods to Help Combat Rhino Poaching

The black and white rhinos at Kariega Game Reserve are monitored by the anti-poaching unit to protect them from the threat of poaching. Various methods are deployed to help to combat rhino poaching including:

  • Anti-poaching units - A team of highly trained personnel who are actively involved in detection and prevention.
  • Dehorning rhinos - The horns of all of the rhinos are regularly removed by a vet to make the rhino less profitable to poach.
  • Tracking collars - All rhinos are fitted with tracking collars so that they can be monitored at all times.
  • Drones - Eyes in the sky help the APU to locate rhinos and monitor areas for suspicious activity. Helicopter assistance is used when needed.
  • Community education and involvement - We work with our surrounding communities to explain the importance of protecting wildlife, especially endangered animals such as rhino.
  • Partnerships - We work with both local and international partners on various rhino conservation and protection endeavours.
  • Local and international media - We also work with media to produce material that educates those who buy rhino horn and incorrectly believe that rhino horn can cure disease.
  • Trained anti-poaching dogs - This is the latest addition to our methods to combat rhino poaching.

As you can imagine these require significant resources and so in January 2018 we implemented a conservation levy to assist us to fund our anti-poaching activities. All adult guests staying at Kariega pay a compulsory levy of R130 per person per night in addition to accommodation and other costs. These funds are invested directly into our community and conservation projects. Generous contributions of donors have also assisted us to improve and strengthen our anti-poaching activities. We are hugely grateful to everyone who is a partner in conserving and protecting rhino.

Can dogs help Kariega combat rhino poaching

Dogs Help Combat Rhino Poaching

When working to protect rhinos and other endangered wildlife there is nothing we won’t try! For the past few years we have been monitoring the use of dogs to help combat rhino poaching. The first trained anti-poaching dog was deployed in the Kruger National Park in 2010. Dogs are now being successfully used to help combat rhino poaching in other parts of South Africa and across Africa, including in Kenya and Botswana. 

Dogs have a great sense of smell, are fast and can be natural hunters. Trained dogs have been known to alert anti-poaching units to the presence of a poacher up to one kilometer away.

The dogs used to help combat rhino poaching are bred, raised and trained to be a working part of an APU team. The dogs used for APUs are mostly German, Sable and Belgian Shepherds, Malinois, Bloodhounds and Beagles. These dogs go through many years of training. Shepherds and Malinois are most often used as sniffer dogs and trackers. They are trained to find a track or the smell of a poacher and will run until they find the culprit. This tracking exercise can go on for minutes or hours and sometimes even days. Bloodhounds and Beagles can also be trained to find and follow a scent trail. They are able to follow the trail of items such as rhino horn, ammunition and blood.

Kariega K9 Attack

Dog Joins Kariega Team to Help Combat Rhino Poaching

Kariega Game Reserve is delighted that Cyrus, a trained Sable Shepherd, has joined our anti-poaching team. We are extremely grateful to a number of donors and organizations who have worked together with us to make this wish a reality. Our thanks to everyone in these amazing organizations:

You will see from the above that it is very costly to include an anti-poaching dog or K9 unit into an APU. The average cost to purchase a good breed of trained dog is between R35,000 and R50,000. The dog handler also needs to be trained over a period of time and the training costs are between R30,000 and R40,000 (€2,000/£1,600/US$2,200). There are additional costs for kennels, food, vehicle modifications to accommodate the dog and vet costs when needed. We are hopeful that Cyrus with assist our APU to combat rhino poaching. We are so grateful to our wonderful sponsors, some of whom are pictured below.

Kariega Apu K9 Sponsors

If you would like to find out more about Kariega Game Reserve's rhino protection programmes and why we are so dedicated to conserving and protecting rhino read about the poaching of Thandi, Themba and the unnamed bull in 2012. This incident deeply affected everyone on our reserve and continues to be a reminder as to why we always need to work harder to protect rhinos and endangered wildlife.

Visit our Save the Rhino project if you would like to make a donation or find out more about our work.

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