Erika Gibson

2012-03-24 00:00

JACK is one of three dogs being trained not only to pick up the trail of rhino poachers, but also to protect their handlers if they are threatened.

Public donations are paying for the training. The organisation Stop Rhino Poaching (SRP) will soon place Jack, a Belgian shepherd, in one of the country’s key reserves at risk from poaching.

After unique and intensive training, the dogs will be able to sniff out concealed weapons and ammunition, as well as signs of rhino horn.

SRP began raising money for Jack’s training in February and had enough donations within a month. Two other trained dogs will follow close on his heels.

Allister Gibbons of Mechem, a division of Denel, said the arms company donated Jack as a young dog. The other two will also come from Denel. They are full grown and are on a reserve near Middelburg, getting used to being around wild animals.

The dogs are trained to raise their tails when they pick up a strong trail. If there are animals in the area, they will lift their left ears and if poachers are near they will raise their hackles.

The dogs are trained to walk ahead of their handlers, so they draw the attention of a poacher first, giving the handler time to react — in effect, acting as early warning signals.

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