K9 heroes saving SA’s endangered species
Man’s best friend just became every endangered species’ best friend! In South Africa, our endangered species are diminishing at an alarming rate and one organisation is doing their utmost to stop it.
The Regal team meets the Pit Track team at WODAC 2016
Pit-Track – a unique approach to rhino protection
Pit-Track is a non-profit organisation dedicated to protecting South Africa’s endangered species in a rather unique way – by using dogs especially trained in anti-poaching, tracking, attacking and apprehension. Dogs have the ability to track poachers via their scent and can run them down much faster than any human. Pit-Track’s K9 Conservation Unit is made up of volunteers (both human and canine), whose mission is to risk their lives for the sake of all endangered species. The unit specialises in rhino protection, anti-poaching, tracking, K9 training and investigation.
The scary statistics
Rather alarmingly, the statistics in the media with regards to rhino poaching are only a third of the actual numbers. We are currently losing a rhino every six hours. (Yes, you read that right.) From 1974 – 2015 our endangered wildlife population in South Africa has halved, so statistically, we can look at complete extinction as early as 2020.
Proactive rather than reactive
As well as having a unique (canine) work-force, Pit-Track’s methods to combat poaching are also unique in that the dogs and team members actually shadow the animals in danger. Conventional methods involve patrolling and securing large areas and mostly rely on having a reactive approach, whereas Pit-Track is more proactive. “When the rhinos rest, or graze, we lie in wait; when the rhinos move, we move, and in the event of a contact, we have military-trained and highly skilled operators, with tracking and apprehensive canines to counter any threats the poaching syndicates can bring,” explains Pit-Track’s founder Carl Thornton, in an article recently published in People Magazine.
The canine crew
The team of 29 dogs is made up of various breeds to ensure a well-rounded approach to their efforts; Belgian Malinois are used to follow the scent of poachers, Weimaraners track the animals that are being protected, Belgian bloodhounds can sniff out animal parts such as rhino horn, and American pit bull terriers have the ability to apprehend and bring down the poachers.
Two of the unit’s star dogs are Diego and Vega. Diego is a 7-year-old American pit bull belonging to Pit-Track’s founder Carl. He was trained from a very young age and as such is an exceptional member of the team, not only at tracking scents but footprints and individual animal species too. Not only has he performed more captures than any of the other dogs, but he has also challenged the negative perceptions that pit bulls are often lumped with. Another of the unit’s American pit bulls is Vega. She is a rescue dog, dumped at the Pit-Track workshop when she was 14 weeks old. Her skills include ‘seek and destroy’ and finding rhinos. Vega and Diego do most of their operations together – their speed, power and love for rhinos is invincible!
With the exception of a few generous sponsors, Pit-Track is largely self-funded. To date, they have had a 100% success rate and have not lost an animal on their watch. A track record they intend to uphold.
Regal supports the heroic work of Pit-Track
Pit-Track are the chosen beneficiaries for our competition this year. For every entry into the competition, Regal will donate R2 to support the great work these canines are doing.
To find out more about the work that Pit-Track does visit their website and follow them on Facebook.