South Africa’s ongoing fight against rhino poaching has taken a fresh turn, with the introduction of a new four-legged generation of crime fighters.
Jetta, Kombi and Chico are the new four-legged weapons in the SANParks arsenal.
In recent years poaching has become a brutal business, with well-armed and organised criminals slaughtering the country’s precious rhino population for the sake of money.
Counter-poaching measures have been put in place to confront this onslaught from gangs of heavily armed poachers. Until recently the face of counter-poaching was that of an armed ranger putting his life on the line for rhinos – but now counter-poaching has a new face, or should that be tail?
The South African National Parks (SANParks) authority has introduced three foxhounds into the fray. Going by the names of Kombi, Jetta and Chico, the plucky canines have become the first of a new generation of crime fighters entering the poaching war on the side of the rhinos.
The dogs will be deployed as part of a rapid reaction team, which can be on the scene of a poaching incident within minutes and will be able to track poachers quickly and efficiently.
According to SANPArks, they are completing the initial phase of their training, and are making excellent progress. The dogs have shown above average abilities and intelligence, and have already learnt to ignore animal spoor in favour of their human quarry.
They are perfecting a daily tracking routine which already has them tracking people with a 90% success rate. They are well balanced, keen and boisterous and are displaying an eagerness to track which bodes well for their futures, and hopefully that of rhinos.
The operational phase of their training started in March. Here they are learning to operate as a unit, with their human handlers, in wilderness situations, often facing wild animals and working in dangerous circumstances.
If all goes well the three canines will take up duties in the Kruger National Park well before the end of 2012.
Rapid response team
The SANParks Honorary Rangers decided to sponsor this project with a R43 000 (US$5 700) contribution through the Unite Against Poaching project, to help increase the efficiency of existing anti-poaching teams.
Kombi, Chico and Jetta will enable anti-poaching teams to hunt down their quarry, preventing the criminals from escaping capture by fleeing across the borders of the park with their bloody loot.
They are at home in their comfortable new kennels, and are being well looked after, says SANParks. These tail-wagging bundles of energy are sure to turn into a poachers’ worst nightmare.
The three furry females are named after well-known Volkswagen models, as a tribute to the Unitrans Automotive Volkswagen and Audi divisions, which came on board to help provide the necessary financial backing for this effort.