Training dogs to save rhinos

Written by: Donna Purvis

With the presence of highly organised criminal poaching syndicates growing alarmingly across Africa, the battle to protect rhinos both in the wild and in sanctuaries has become an increasingly tactical affair.


The Ol Pejeta Conservancy, East Africa’s largest black rhino sanctuary knows this only too well, and is fighting back with a revolutionary conservation strategy via the introduction of multi-role dogs. Whilst dogs are not a new concept in Africa in the war against poaching, the use of multi-role dogs is – an approach championed by ex-Royal Army Veterinary Corps Military Dog Instructor, Daryll Pleasants, as the most effective way forward in future anti–poaching measures.


So how does this dog differ from any other dog used for anti-poaching purposes in Africa?

Daryll explains, “Currently in Africa, dogs tend to be trained in one discipline, i.e. to patrol, apprehend or track. The dogs I am training are capable of fulfilling all these roles; they are multi-skilled utility dogs proficient in patrol work, apprehension, building searches, tracking, handler protection, area searches, article searches, carcass location and detection of either narcotics, ivory or arms/explosives. This will make a huge difference to effective anti-poaching dog use across Africa.


As things are at the moment, the reaction time to poaching incidents is dramatically reduced due to the fact that several dog units need to be deployed one after the other, to respond to an incident. For example, until recently, locating a carcass, injured or dying animal, especially at night was an extremely time consuming search carried out by the conservancy rangers. On location, a tracker dog team would then need be deployed to follow up, then another dog would need to be deployed to apprehend the suspect, all with time passing in-between allowing the suspect to escape. My method allows one dog to fulfill all roles, ensuring the suspect is caught, stashed weapons or horn is exposed quickly, the animal is located fast and the message is sent that poaching will no longer be tolerated anywhere in Africa.”


The results at Ol Pejeta are already speaking volumes, with only one poaching incident resulting in a rhino’s death in the last year. Could it be that one British dog instructor has discovered a way to prevent the extinction of Africa’s rhinos by using man’s best friend as a multi-faceted line of defence for these majestic creatures?


To read more about Daryll’s methods and to support the valued work of the Ol Pejeta Dog Section please visit White Paw Training.

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  • Henriette Schalekamp-Roux

    Go GET them boys !!!

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