Irish dogs to help fight poachers
Erika Gibson, Beeld
Pretoria - Fourteen Irish "immigrants" have arrived in South Africa to add their expertise to the fight against rhino poachers.
These furry "detectives" are the latest addition to the team of dogs belonging to Mechem, a division of Denel, which are trained to sniff out mainly rhino horns and ivory.
The young Labradors are from Downpatrick, a town just north of Belfast. They were bred to be used as working dogs and have all the necessary characteristics to start working within about three months.
According to Allister Gibbons, manager of Mechem's dog unit, each puppy was thoroughly tested for genetic defects and leg and hip problems.
"They were hand-picked. We decided on the imported dogs because they come from an excellent gene pool.
"It would be extremely difficult to obtain such a large group of dogs of the same age locally," he said.
They're very expensive, but Gibbons gives the assurance that they will be worth every cent.
According to him, Mechem can hardly keep up with the demand for trained dogs for the protection of endangered species.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Mechem are now working together to get the dogs ready to use against poachers and smugglers not only in South Africa, but also in Mozambique and in Tanzania.
The youngest team of Labradors will probably be used against rhino poachers in the Kruger Park.
"The authorities there also want dogs which can sniff out explosives, since the poachers use weapons and ammunition," explained Gibbons.