Dogs Trained To Protect Wildlife Save 45 Rhinos From Poachers

by : Niamh Shackleton on : 13 May 2020 16:28
DogsSean Viljoen /SAWC /Ivan Carter WCA /Caters News

A group of dogs trained to protect wildlife have successfully saved 45 rhinos from poachers. 

Based in South Africa, the group of dogs range from beagles to bloodhounds and start training as puppies.


The pooches are part of an anti-poaching K9 fast response unit and were trained at the Southern African Wildlife College in Greater Kruger National Park by ‘K9 Master’ Johan van Straaten.

South Africa holds 80% of the world’s rhino population, so there couldn’t be a better place for them to bring in this innovative idea.

DogsSean Viljoen / SAWC / Ivan Carter WCA / Caters News

Talking about the 45 rhinos the dogs have saved so far, Johan said:


The data we collect for this applied learning project aimed at informing best practice, shows we have prevented approximately 45 rhino being killed since the free tracking dogs became operational in February 2018.

In the areas where the Southern African Wildlife College patrol, the success rate of the dogs is around 68 per cent using both on and off leash free tracking dogs, compared to between three to five per cent with no canine capacity.

Johan added that the ‘game changer’ was using free tracking dogs as they can track much faster than a human.

DogsSean Viljoen / SAWC / Ivan Carter WCA / Caters News

Depending on the breed, it’s thought that a dog’s sense of smell can be 1,000 to 10,000,000 times better than humans’ and they can hear four times further than a human too.


This leaves it no surprise the anti-poachers have seen success in using our four-legged friends to help protect other animals.

Johan said:

The project is helping ensure the survival of southern Africa’s rich biodiversity and its wildlife including its rhino which have been severely impacted by wildlife crime.

In the past decade over 8,000 rhinos have sadly been victim to poaching with South Africa being one of the hardest hit countries.

DogsSean Viljoen / SAWC / Ivan Carter WCA / Caters News

While poaching is still happening there, since 2015 charity Save The Rhino have recorded a ‘significant downward trend’ in the number of rhinos killed. However, there’s still a long way to go with 594 of the large animals killed last year.

African rhinos are classed as critically endangered and, according to the WWF, just over 5,000 of them remain the wild.

With this in mind, the work being done by Johan, the dogs, and the rest of the anti-poaching team is desperately needed and hopefully they’ll go on to prove even more successful.


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Niamh Shackleton

Niamh Shackleton is a pint sized person and journalist at UNILAD. After studying Multimedia Journalism at the University of Salford, she did a year at Caters News Agency as a features writer in Birmingham before deciding that Manchester is (arguably) one of the best places in the world, and therefore moved back up north. She's also UNILAD's unofficial crazy animal lady.

Topics: Animals, Critically Endangered, Dogs, South Africa


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    Dogs trained to protect wildlife have saved 45 rhinos from poachers in South Africa