Rhino dogs are hard-hitting, frontline soldiers in the fight to save rhinos. They’re loyal, agile, tenacious and brave — and they work their hearts out for food and affection.
Rhino dogs are critical in the fight to save Africa’s rhinos. They are part of an integral part of a well-planned anti-poaching defense, complementing boots on the ground, special training and equipment, early warnings and community-based information, investigative and forensic techniques, and other methods.
A well-trained dog and handler team is a powerful weapon against wildlife crime. Dogs use their superior senses of smell and hearing, eyesight, and agility to sense and do things that people can’t. As poachers become more lethally armed, dogs provide vital early warning and safety systems for rangers and handlers. Their keen sense of smell and ability to track over long distances, in some cases for up to 48 hours, make them invaluable. Some rhino dogs are also trained to attack suspected poachers, biting and holding them while their handlers disarm and arrest them.
In many cases, while poachers are cutting off the horn of a downed rhino, the rest of the gang waits to ambush field rangers responding to the incursion. Because dogs and their handlers have such an intense bond, handlers notice every nuanced sign that their dog gives while tracking. Raised hackles or ears can be the first warning that poachers (or rhinos) are nearby.
IRF is partnering with South Africa’s StopRhinoPoaching.com to provide dogs trained to track poachers by following their scent in the bush, protect handlers and rangers, detect ammunition (which poachers often stash prior to a poaching event), and locate the horns of poached rhinos at road blocks and security check points.