Animals Saving Animals is a UK project making a real difference in the fight against the ivory and rhino horn trades. The idea is simple. Take some of the best tracking dogs in the World, train them to work in the African Bush and let them take you to the poachers.
As an organisation they try and help only those conservancies most in need, with each section requiring two dogs and four trained handlers. The dogs are proving hugely successful with only one rhino poached on Ol Pejeta Kenya in two years and no poaching incidents in 7 months at Mkomazi Tanzania since the dogs caught the last bush meat poaching gang.
In southern Africa they work with ICORP, an independent South Africa- based anti poaching group that are making a huge difference with a very dangerous but crucial role. ICORP is a small dedicated group with very little equipment.
Real Africa has committed to pay for Stage 1 funding of an anti-poaching dog.
Stage one costs £6,500 per dog and covers purchase of puppy, inoculations, food and training for one year consisting of foundation training in search, tracking and bite work.
Our aim is to fund-raise to also underwrite Vaala's deloyment, local training and operational equipment.
Rob and family went to visit Vaala during their holiday in Italy, meeting the pup at just a few weeks old. We have all been glued to her progress ever since and are delighted to hear that she has now safely made the journey from Rome to Harare in Zimbabwe where she will begin training as an operational anti-poaching dog.
If you're interested in the work of the dog squad you may like to read our blog when Sara went on a tracking exercise at Lewa in Kenya with Tipper the bloodhound.
The Lebonbo Conservancy, Mozambique/South Africa border.
The average life expectancy of a rhino that wanders from the Kruger into Mozambique is currently 12-24 hours.
The area where they need most assistance is Crocuta anti-poaching unit which is ICORP's APU primary arm, operating on 10,000 hectors situated 20 km south of Massingir, wedged into the larger Lebombo Conservancy in Mozambique which borders the Kruger National Park. There are no rhino on the reserve, but they stop poaching gangs using this area as a springboard into the Kruger National Park, where they are slaughtering rhino and elephant.
They also act as a buffer and stopper group, arresting poachers coming back with horn, or going to kill and sometimes they will wait overnight to move during the midday, or late night. Poachers are also maiming animals on the reserve with snare lines, and using dogs and machetes to kill wildlife. Firearms are stashed and hidden along with horn/ivory and ivory after the incident. There are numerous confrontations with armed gangs, with shots fired. They've had Rangers stabbed, and shot. Recently one poacher died in a fire fight outside the reserve with the complete syndicate arrested, $15,000 cash recovered and a vehicle and firearm seized.
Animals Saving Animals role, and Real Africa's, is to help them with the dogs, direct associated equipment and handler training. The dogs will help in three areas of concern this being.
1. Deterrent-To act as a deter to poachers heading into the Kruger being used in a border control role, Dogs have a pick up and indication range of about 1km in favourable conditions and should be needed can then apprehend.
2. Firearms detection- all our dogs are trained to search and locate hidden forearms and associated items. With the sudden upsurge in poachers not wanting to be caught in possession of the firearm the new trend in poaching is to lay the weapon in hiding several days before the operational night. The dogs are having huge successes in locating these weapons
3. Reactive role- after an incident the dogs can locate a shooting spot then track up to 48 hours cold a poacher scent or spore to give us an arrest or at the very least's vital intelligence about routes, how many men, transport etc
The Save Valley, Zimbabwe
Animal Saving Animals second ongoing project is 'Save valley' Zimbabwe. This is a 3,000 km reserve housing one of only 8 viable breeding populations in the world (about 160 rhino & 2000 elephant). They currently have two dogs 'Rogue' & 'Polaris' who have completed stage one training and are now about to start operational/deployment training.
This is a front line unit with continuous poaching attempts, the most recent being last month with four poachers caught, rifles and associated items seized. On further investigation one of the rifles captured was linked to a shooting in Harare of a woman and eight other rhino deaths.
Night squards, Tsavo, Kenya
Poachers fear the dog squads and therefore use darkness to enter reserves when they know they cannot operate due to the danger from being ambushed or attacked by wild animals. Obviously the dog's noses work just as well at night and it is much cooler for them to work. We are working on equiping the handlers with night-vision goggles and the armed rangers with thermal-imaging sights to allow night patrols and gain the upper hand. It would be a big deterant as the poachers would them know they are at a disadvantage 24 hours a day.
For more details about Animals Saving Animals, please click here.