The importance of properly trained dogs in combatting rhino poaching has been acknowledged by a magistrate.
Two Mozambicans arrested in connection with the killing of a white rhino in the Kruger National Park in January, 2013, were this week found guilty in the Nelspruit Magistrate’s Court. Andolino Mulcube (20) and Jermano Tive (also 20), will be sentenced on Friday by Magistrate Edward Hall.
He said: “Trackers and dogs are recognised in courts in the manner they are trained and perform. The court can accept their version,” Hall said after hearing evidence from Henry Holthysen, head of the Paramount K9 Specialist Academy.
Mulcube and Tive were arrested after being tracked by a Kruger tracker and his dog. The dog, Killer, is from the Paramount K9 Academy and was introduced to rangers in the iconic game reserve at an early age and bonded well with a tracker, who cannot be named for security and protection reasons.
Passing judgement Hall said evidence was on the day of the incident rangers had heard gunshots. Killer and a pair of trackers followed the sound finding blood, a rhino carcass and spoor. The dog then tracked spoor and smell finding two men about a kilometre from the rhino carcass.
“The last few years of involvement in the war against poaching has taught us there is no better solution than well trained rangers and anti-poaching dogs on the ground to effectively combat the waves of poachers that continue to flood into national parks across Africa,” said Eric Ichikowitz, director of the Ichikowitz Family Foundation.
“Conservation officers have to be up-skilled and provided with the necessary training and support to effectively combat increased levels of poaching. All the technology in the world is ineffective if you don’t have well-trained anti-poaching units on the ground to back it up. These units equipped with specialist K9 solutions do support existing efforts and are highly effective in tracking down poachers ultimately leading to effective apprehensions.”
The Paramount K9 Academy specialises in breeding working Belgian shepherd dogs (Malinois) and German shepherd dogs (GSD) for anti-poaching, military and police, as well as any other specialised K9 solutions. Breeding stock is selected from pure working bloodlines. The school also has working Rottweilers and bloodhounds.
The Academy start out with 50 adult dogs last November and now has just on 100 on its books , 20 of which are in Kruger. The Belgian Malinois is well suited to South African conditions as the breed has been extensively used for explosive detection by Special Forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Ichikowitz said he, the Foundation and the K9 Academy were all “immensely proud” of Killer.
“The dog has become the symbol of a fightback against poaching due to his outstanding ability to track down poachers. It is a combination of breeding stock, socialisation at an early age and years of training that deliver dogs of this quality.
“We must also not forget the critical role dog handlers in this case park rangers play. There is a strong bond between handler and dog and this partnership of skills, commitment and trust drives the success of the K9 units,” he said.