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Hluhluwe iMfolozi K9 Unit established to combat rhino poaching

Partners for conservation

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife has joined several partners to establish a dog unit known as the HiP K9 Unit that operates inside Ezemvelo’s Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park (HiP) in Zululand.

Poaching gangs will now know that KZN’s premier wildlife reserve is boosting its efforts and their criminal activities carry additional risks.

The partners, who have been critical in the establishment and funding of the K9 Unit are Wildlife ACT, Hills Pet Nutrition, Save the Rhino International, Wild Tomorrow Fund and Shannon Elizabeth Foundation. Some donations were also received from Hillcrest Primary School and Chase Valley Vet Rooms.

Poaching prevention tactics

The K9 Unit has adopted a proactive approach to apprehend poachers before they poach rhinos. The unit is also mandated to align well with other law enforcement agencies that are involved in combating rhino poaching. There are exciting plans to expand this project and boost other rhino poaching prevention tactics in the park.

Rangers and dogs at work in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi reserve. Pictures Supplied.

Expressing his excitement about the initiative, Dennis Kelly, HiP’s Makhamisa Section Ranger and Project Leader of the K9 Unit, said, “The use of canines is a very effective tool and has been used successfully in Kruger and in other parts of Africa.”

“Dogs are useful in many ways for law enforcement. Their noses – which have 50 times more scent receptors than humans – are their most valuable tool, allowing them to follow and detect specific scents. This is of crucial importance in combatting poaching teams, which have become more sophisticated and can easily hide their tracks once they are inside protected areas.”

Doberman/Bloodhound

The unit currently consists of two handlers and two “cold scent” dogs, Doberman/Bloodhound Crosses, which can follow older scents up to eight hours old. There are already further expansion plans in place to establish a detection unit for gates (to check vehicles and people for animal products and firearms) as well as to procure and train another two “Hot Scent Belgian Malinois” combinations which can be put onto fresher tracks.

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The HIP K9 Unit has been effective within the park for more than six months, with daily operations that have included training, simulations, reaction and follow-ups. They have carried out numerous interventions which have resulted in three notable successes, with three arrests and a number of poaching groups interrupted before they have poached a rhino.

The unit also works with the Project Rhino K9 Unit, a long-established team in the region with numerous successes. This relationship ensures that the dogs and handlers gain the best mentorship, training opportunities and experience to be most effective.

Project Rhino is a collective of 32 like-minded conservation organisations, working together to address wildlife crime in the region.

*Issued jointly by Ezemvelo Wildlife and Wildlife ACT.

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