Africa was once home to millions of wild elephants. Now, somewhere between 30,000 to 50,000 elephants are killed per year for their precious ivory, leaving only a small population of 450,000. This alarming rate of elephant deaths spurred the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species to establish a worldwide ban on the trade of ivory. Unfortunately, the ban has not stopped illegal poaching and cruel treatment to these colossal mammals.
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Now, thanks to conservationists around the world, they’re asking another kind of animal to protect these elephants: Dogs. The African Wildlife Foundation has come together with Kenya and Tanzania to train ivory sniffing canines to identify ivory in transit.
The African Wildlife Foundation has been working on a training program for selected dogs in Africa where they train, track, monitor and deploy the animals.
“We’re not simply training dogs and ‘gifting’ them to governments and groups, never to be heard from again, but working with them and their handlers, cradle to maturity,” says Kathleen Garrigan, a spokeswoman for AWF.
14 dogs from the Kenya Wildlife Services and Tanzania’s Wildlife Division have been given to the African Wildlife Foundation to train. The dogs have officially graduated from the training program and are now stationed in airports, ports and at boarder crossings. The dogs have the chance to catch ivory poachers in their tracks, and stop elephants from being innocently murdered.
The dogs are ideal for the law enforcement unit because they can easily adapt to the scorching African heat, unlike many humans.
“Dogs can handle all sorts of temperatures,” says Will Powell, the director of AWF’s Conservation Canine Program in Arusha, Tanzania.
“The first couple of weeks we start early in the morning, go for long walks and ease them into the day.
Powell notes that training the dogs is sometimes easier than training the dog handlers. Many of the dog handlers have never worked with canines before and many have never owned a dog. It takes extra work, guidance and patience to form a bond with the dogs in order to develop a healthy working environment based in trust.
“The first lessons are as basic as learning to call a dog across a room and be nice. The dogs don’t get a pay check so handlers have to provide love and encouragement,” says Powell.
Most importantly, if the AWF’s dog training program remains successful, elephant poachers will be caught more frequently and hopefully stopped completely.
“If dogs are used and intelligently placed, we are going to stop some of the routes the ivory comes through,” he says.
“The aim is to keep (poachers) on their toes.”
Another company, The Anti-Poaching and Canine Training Academy run by Paramount Group is training some dogs to work with rangers to parachute out of airplanes in order to stop ivory poachers. In fact two dogs, Arrow and Giant have already mastered the descent from a helicopter by rope, and they’re moving on to skydiving, quickly. Don’t worry; they do all of these special stunts strapped to a trainer.
Every day more than 100 elephants are killed and more than 1,000 rhinos were gunned down last year for their horns. Animal loving humans working for these foundations, and their dedicated canines are on a mission to save these endangered animals and they’re not stopping anytime soon.
If you’d like to learn more about the African Wildlife Foundation or donate to their cause visit: https://www.awf.org/campaigns/dogs-saving-elephants/
If you’d like to learn more about anti-poaching sky diving dogs visit: http://paramountk9solutions.com/