WATCH: Tiny village puppy trains as anti-poaching tracking dog in Zambia

2016-06-24 13:37

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Lusaka - Dog handlers are training a tiny puppy from a Zambian village as a tracking dog to help in anti-poaching operations - and she's already a star.

"Fury" was a malnourished six-week pup of indeterminate parentage when Invictus K9, working with the Conservation Lower Zambezi project, chose to take her in and train her.

Now the little dog is learning so fast and with such enthusiasm that her trainers are wondering if they could one day start a "Bush Dog Academy", employing locals to work with dogs like Fury.

Zimbabwean-born Jay Crafter of Invictus K9 says that normally he works with German Shepherds when training dogs for anti-poaching activities in the southern African region, where rhino and elephant poaching is a huge problem. "They are a dependable, reliable breed," he told News24.

But Fury is defying stereotypes. Just one week into training she was already following "sit" and "lie" commands.

She loves her trainer, Chris, and sleeps in a tent with him, says Crafter. Chris himself is "super-protective" of his charge, Crafter adds.

The plucky pup is already being taught how to identify ivory, weapons and ammunition by smell.

Her trainers have devised an exercise where she has to sniff inside several pipes and look for a particular "target".

Said Crafter: "In each pipe there will be other novel scents such as soap or her treats or elephant dung."

"Then we will have the target in the one tube. She will be required to ignore the distractors and indicate the target."

At the moment, possibly because of her background, Fury is really driven by food. The titbits she's given when she follows the commands are part of a specially-planned daily diet.

"We will plan to go into rewards as she matures," Crafter said.

Fury's story could easily have turned out very differently. Her mother already had five puppies and was fearful of strangers when she was adopted. Crafter thinks that if she hadn't been plucked from the pack "it's highly likely she wouldn't be alive today."

These days, Fury is acquiring pretty impressive language skills. She's learning commands in Chewa, Dutch and English, although as Crafter says: "Praise is number one."

He thinks that she might be fully trained by nine months. For now though, "it's too soon to tell."

"Fury is the first (Canis Africanis) dog and all we are attempting is to see how trainable they are as a breed. We need to look at a larger group to to see how consistent the breed is," he said.

"If she doesn't make it, then we can look at her conducting vehicle searches or doing some other form of conservation work."

"The primary goal is to train her to work in an anti-poaching role. The Canis Africanis breed is heat tolerant, have natural immunities and have adapted really well to the environment."

"I am optimistic at where she is now in training but we will see what happens," Crafter said. "We want her to be a bad ass poacher catching puppy!"

She certainly deserves to make it!

Read more on:    zambia  |  southern africa

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