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Importance of Dogs in Anti-poaching – Insights From A Game Ranger

Importance of Dogs in Anti-poaching - Insights From A Game Ranger

Did you know that dogs are crucial contributors to anti-poaching? Sean van Niekerk, an experienced ranger, shared some of his stories and experiences working alongside dogs in an anti-poaching unit. 

Their Work

Rhinos in Limpopo Province, South Africa. Image provided by Elephant Crossings Lodge.

Sean was a part of a team who minimized the poaching of rhinos in Mozambique, and that of elephants in Limpopo areas. They would spend long days – and nights – tracking poachers causing harm to wildlife and risking the conservation of these animals. In their efforts to protect these animals, they brought in crucial team members – dogs. 

What Dogs Do They Use? 

Doberman Pinscher
Image by Jozefh Feha via Pexels

Sean and his team used Doberman-Bloodhoud crosses in their operation. These dogs had incredible tracking ability from their Bloodhound genes and agility from their Doberman side. Making them a crucial part of the APU’s early detection and quick reaction strategy. 

How Do The Dogs Help? 

The portrait of pair of Bloodhound dogs in the garden. Image by CaptureLight via

With their incredible sense of smell, of course! The dogs give the team a bearing on the direction of the poachers by following their scent. This often means the dogs follow their noses instead of the physical tracks left behind. One of the dogs, Fury, could track poachers for over 12 miles on the scent they left behind over 17 hours ago!

What Difference Does It Make? 

African bush elephant
African bush elephants in Matetsi Safari Area, Zimbabwe . Image via Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

These highly trained dogs will also detect a change in the poachers’ direction before the physical track changes, making the tracking process much quicker and more effective. Helping the team greatly as time is crucial to minimize the damage caused by the poachers. 

Dangerous Work

bloodhound tracking
Image by ms-grafixx via

It is no secret that the work of an APU is dangerous. On one of their tracking missions, Sean and his team tracked poachers in the area. With Fury at the front, of course. Suddenly Fury came to a halt – the tracks still stretching forward – focussing his attention to their right. 

Life-Saving Moment

Image by Hakase_ via

The team could still see the tracks going forward when Fury’s handler told them that the poachers were right there. It came to light that the poachers looped around, and was waiting for the APU team to go past to attack them from the back. Luckily the understanding between the handler and the dog was incredible. If they had kept on visually tacking they could have carried on, but luckily Fury warned them and they could successfully apprehend the poachers

Listen To The Podcast Here

YouTube video
Ranger Sean Van Niekerk shares insights into Conservation and Anti-Poaching in Southern Africa. Source: Youtube, Uploaded: Animals Around The Globe.

Crucial Anti-Poachers – Dogs! 

airedale terrier vs. Doberman Pinscher
Doberman Pinscher. Image via Depositphotos

This article is just a glimpse into how these dogs help the anti-poaching teams in their conservation and protection work. From quickly tracking poachers to protecting their team, these dogs make fantastic assets to the team! Listen to our podcast with Sean for more!

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