Duke the doggie detective found safe after skirmish with poachers

2019-07-25 05:12
Star poaching track Duke is home safe after disappearing when poachers opened fire  (Ranger's identity obscured for his safety). (Supplied)

Star poaching track Duke is home safe after disappearing when poachers opened fire (Ranger's identity obscured for his safety). (Supplied)

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The SA National Parks (SANParks) is relieved that one of its star tracker dogs was found after disappearing during an armed skirmish with poachers he had sniffed out in the Kruger National Park. 

SANParks spokesperson Ike Phaahla said three-year-old Duke, a Doberman-hound cross, who is known for being good at following spoor over a long distance in difficult terrain, disappeared on Tuesday. 

He was with a team of rangers following three suspected poachers and had led the team to their hideout. 

"Upon discovering they had been spotted, the poachers fired at the Ranger Corps and in the confusion his harness and satellite collar fell off and that is how he became lost, but thankfully he was found safe and sound except being shaken from spending the night away from familiar surroundings," said Phaahla.

News of Duke's disappearance was shared widely on social media in the hope that somebody would see him in case he was injured, or before he became lunch to one of the wild animals roaming the world famous park.

READ: Poaching slows but Africa's elephants still face extinction

Duke's K9 handler may not be identified for his own safety as the high-risk unit is tasked with flushing out poachers, but SANParks shared a picture of the amber-coloured canine detective with floppy ears being reunited with his handler.

Phaahla said the poachers were arrested and found in possession of a high-calibre hunting rifle, ammunition and poaching equipment.

Nobody was injured in the skirmish. 

"Charges have been laid with the police and includes the illegal possession of a weapon, ammunition and trespassing in a national park with the intent to commit a crime," said Phaahla. 

Duke's human colleagues were grateful he was found safe and sound.

"... the animals are part of this brave family that protects our natural heritage from criminal elements," said Phaahla.  

New poaching statistics are expected to be released soon.

In January, the then-environmental affairs department said rhino poaching incidents had decreased to 769 in 2018, making it the third consecutive year that South Africa saw a decline, particularly in national parks.

This was a decrease of 259 compared to 2017 when 1 028 rhinos were killed for their horns.

This was due to an integrated strategic management of rhinoceros approach that was adopted by the Cabinet in 2014, which included the departments of defence and correctional services as well as the Hawks, police and National Prosecuting Authority.

The decline was also due to the hard work of the teams at the coalface, either through aerial support or on the ground.

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Read more on:    sanparks  |  kruger national park  |  animals  |  poaching
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