The Dog Squad of Lewa: Conserving Kenya’s Rhinos

Dogs are known to be man’s best friend, and as a good example, intelligent dogs at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya work to maintain security in the area. Recently, the paw-squad successfully made four arrests, bringing the poaching incidents to zero. Hands down to their bravery!

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya is one of the most established rhino conservancies. and Rhino protection is their core mission. Thankfully the dog quad plays a crucial role to protect black and rhino rhinos living in this sanctuary.

Since the 1970s, the population of Kenya’s rhino population is decreasing, suffering heavy loss from poaching. Additionally, human intervention has left very little space for the rhino population. Wildlife authorities in Kenya aim to improve the current situation by steadily increasing the country’s black rhino population to 2,000.


The dog squad at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, one of the most established rhino conservancies in Kenya | Image: Save the Rhino

Ol Jogi conservancy was the first Kenyan conservancy to deploy anti-poaching canine units in 1989. The results have motivated neighbouring rhino sanctuaries to established well-trained canine teams in an effort to curb illegal activities in the area.

The canine squad proves to be an effective strategy to reduce poaching incidents, thanks to their sense of smell. The trained dogs lead rangers and enforcement authorities to suspects by tracing the routes used by poaching gangs. The dogs are also able to locate rhino horns at key locations in airports or parks. Organised searches with the dogs’ help to detect and stop wildlife traffickers.

Also Read: Tracking Technology to Protect Black Rhinos from Poachers in Namibia

Lewa’s canine unit, headed by Joseph Piroris, is a team of five professionals and two dogs – Ruby and Nasuju. The dogs are trained six days per week to improve their skills. In the training session, a crime scene is staged and the team recreates the real incident. The dogs identify the scent and learn to track down pseudo ‘suspects’.

black rhino in kenya - conservation

The canine units have proven to be one of the most successful rhino breeding programmes in Kenya | Image: Expert Africa

Thanks to the team’s efforts, the security incidents like rhino poaching have significantly declined. In 2020, between January to June, the team was able to unveil 11 cases of stock theft, 9 cases of banditry, eight robbery incidents and four poaching crimes!

These dogs are the frontline of conservation efforts in Lewa and are frequently deployed beyond the boundaries of Lewa. The team responds to emergency calls from communities around Lewa and other conservancies.

The success of Lewa’s team has even influenced Lewa’s main partner, the Northern Rangeland Trust, to establish a special team of professionals and canines. It has inspired neighbouring rhino sanctuaries and projects across Africa to follow a similar strategy.

Via: Save the Rhino

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