Sunday, February 25, 2018

The guardians of the rhino

For several years, Bayer has supported the critically important work of the anti-poaching dog unit in the Kruger National Park in South Africa. Clint Austin, Head of Clinical Development & Regulatory Affairs for Bayer Animal Health South Africa, reports back about his latest visit to the dogs.
Clint Austin, Head of Clinical Development & Regulatory Affairs for Bayer Animal Health South Africa.


On any given day there are five groups of poachers active within the borders of the Kruger National Park. Rangers with specialized tracking skills patrol the vast area of the Park and alert the authorities if there is any evidence of poachers. The dogs of the K9 anti-poaching unit are then brought in to track them.
The radio crackles in camp, the dogs ears perk up. Fresh tracks of poachers have been identified and the dogs are needed to pursue the gang. The rangers and their canine partners ready themselves for action.
As a supporter of the work being done at Kruger National Park, I am on a re-supply run, bringing the dogs medicine vital to protect their health and well-being during their seemingly unending fight against rhino poachers. The rangers never leave base without first aid kits containing canine and human medicine.
There is no time for small-talk today, the urgent calls on the radio are repeated and conversation is cut short - the well-trained team under Johan de Beer, affectionately known as “Beertjie and head of the K9 anti-poaching units in Kruger, climbs into the truck with the dogs and they disappear into the unforgiving wilderness. At the place where the tracks were spotted, the truck stops rapidly and the team disembarks, ready for anything. The dogs are scanning the bush, excited and tense but completely silent, waiting for the signal to go.

The dogs are highly trained and completely focused on the job. Johan has explained to me before how the Belgian Malinois dogs are able to track a fresh scent. These are usually the “first responders” to a scene and can rapidly track a scent that is not too old, immediately engaging the poachers if they are found. In cases where the scent or tracks are older than a day, bloodhounds are usually brought in to follow the scent. Johan is proud of the Malinois and his entire team. “ They are phenomenal guardians!” he adds.

There is a fresh scent today and the dogs are agitated, someone is nearby. It all happens so quickly - they spot movement in the high grass several hundred meters away. Two armed poachers. A fierce chase ensues, but before the poachers have a chance to escape the dogs have them on the ground and they surrender, firearms and a rhino horn in their possession as proof of their crimes. Two more criminal poachers apprehended, but tragically too late for the rhino that was their victim.

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. Johan uses our long-lasting flea and tick collars because they are extremely effective against these parasites, protecting these anti-poaching warriors in the bush. The active ingredients are continuously released from the collar distributed via the outermost layer of the dog’s skin and hair protecting the entire body. The poachers are taken into custody and handed over to the authorities, just another day in the life of the rhino dogs. Water, food, treats and praise are on the menu when they return to base camp. Resting in the African dusk, roaring lions and calling jackals nearby, they wait for the next call to action…





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