Every year, hundreds of rhinos are killed by poachers in South Africa. They want the horn, only the dead carcass of these wonderful animals remains behind. With reckless brutality rhino poachers take the horn of the wonderful animals to sell it on the black-market. A well-trained anti-poaching dog team is giving the fight for the survival of the rhinos in the Kruger Park a glimmer of hope.
Since 1960, the black rhino population has declined by 97.6% in the Kruger National Park. Poachers remain the biggest threat to this species and Kruger is the most critical poaching area.
Bayer supports an aid program for Rhino Anti-poaching Dogs in South Africa whereby Bayer provides all the canine members of the anti-poaching dog unit with various parasiticide medications which enable them to concentrate better on their real task: to track and avoid Rhino poaching. The protection of these endangered species is an important and very costly job.
The Horn business is lucrative and the K9 unit is dealing with well-equipped, armed and unscrupulous poachers. For Bruce Leslie, Regional Ranger and Head of Special Operations at the Kruger National Park, the biggest challenge for his rangers is to maintain the high level of operational capability and live a life. “We have a great team of dedicated rangers, but we do not know exactly if everyone in our team can resist the financial temptations. Not knowing who of the rangers you can actually trust is an additional burden.”
The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) counts more than 7.900 poached rhinos in South Africa in the last 11 years. In 2018, 769 rhinos were poached. Despite all the adversities, the team is successful in protecting the rhinos. “For 2019 the projection is even lower. This is good news, but each killed rhino is one too many,” says Bruce. “Last year we have arrested 421 poachers and we have to stay with it, always alert. It is a very responsible task to protect these wonderful animals.”
Protection against external parasites, particularly ticks and fleas, is critical to the dogs who work in very harsh terrain and the danger of fatal tick-borne diseases is an ever-present threat.
“I got very scared this season with the current explosion of the tick population, but the dogs are doing well with combining Seresto and Advantix treatment,” Dr Lin-Marie de Klerk-Lorist, State Veterinarian at the Kruger Park, is satisfied with the results. “I have not diagnosed a single case of babesiosis in the last 3.5 years.”
The dogs and their handlers play a very important role in the anti-poaching and protection strate¬gies throughout South Africa. Fortunately, the White Rhino population is starting to recover. Animal Health will continue to support the K9 team to enable them to protect the lives of rhinos and secure their survival in the long term.