The perilous 1,000-mile journey to save Africa’s endangered black rhinos
28 October 2022
The arrival of a canine unit in Mozambique’s Limpopo National Park was welcomed by the anti-poaching forces in June 2019. The team, consisting of a well-trained canine handler and tracking dog will be deployed with patrol units to find potential threats along active poacher routes or participate in tracking operations during a pursuit.
Tracking dogs operate incredibly fast and their keen sense of smell makes it nearly impossible to hide from them. Peace Parks’ Antony Alexander says, “Poachers tend to hide in thick bush, which makes it incredibly difficult for humans to find them, especially at night. This will not be so easy when the canine unit is deployed. A dog moves much faster than humans do so it is able to catch up with poachers quite easily when in pursuit.”
Tracking countermeasures, such as covering spoor or camouflage is ineffective when a canine unit is in pursuit. According to James Walker, former director of the Sensory Research Institute at Florida State University, dogs’ sense of smell is 10 000 to 100 000 times better than ours. He says, “Let’s suppose they’re just 10 000 times better, if you make the analogy to vision, what you and I can see at a third of a mile, a dog could see more than 3 000 miles away and still see as well.”
These animals are trained from a young age to be comfortable in noisy environments, which makes it possible to deploy them using helicopters or to transport them on the back of the park’s land cruisers with groups of rangers. When the anti-poaching teams are in pursuit, time is never on their side so the quicker the tracker dog can be deployed, the better the chances are of finding the poachers.
We salute the Environment Management and Conservation Trust (EMCT) for their investment in this unit and wish them well in safeguarding Limpopo National Park’s precious natural resources.
Developing the park
Peace Parks Foundation and Mozambique’s National Administration of Conservation areas (ANAC) is working together to develop Limpopo National Park, which lies within the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area. After being proclaimed a national park in 2001, the Mozambique Government requested Peace Park’s assistance in overseeing the park’s development. A project implementation unit, comprising staff from both ANAC and Peace Parks Foundation, was set up and focuses on six major programmes: infrastructure, voluntary resettlement, community support, tourism development, administration and protection.