Belgian Malinois dogs that recently graduated from the Mechem Training Center in Tshwane, South Africa,  are now on active duty in Pilanesberg National Reserve and the Kruger National Park in South Africa,to help catch rhino poachers in the areas.

Russell and Toby, the two Malinois dogs will be handled by field rangers in the parks. This dog project works in conjunction with the Stop Rhino Poaching Project.

These dogs are trained in:

  • Weapon detection
  • Horn detection
  • Tracking in the bush and hot scene intervention
  • Ground support visibility

How long does it take to train an anti-poaching bush dog?

Anti-poaching training takes nine- weeks and begins when the dog is around 14 months old, after he has completed all his basic obedience training. These dogs are regarded as highly effective anti-poaching weapons. Unfortunately ,anti-poaching dogs do not wear any bulletproof gear. Elsie Daffue, founder of the Stop Rhino Poaching says that these dogs are not just sniffer dogs, but highly trained dogs with the bush approach. Interestingly enough, each of these game parks will have kennels constructed especially for the safety of the dogs ,as they will also be exposed to poisonous snakes and other dangers.

Unfortunately, South Africa has seen a spike in the slaughter of rhino’s lately and more than 270 rhinos have been killed in 2012 alone. Unfortunately, Rhino horn is popular in Asia and is used to make traditional herbal medicines.

Why Mechem-MEDDS?

MEDDS has successfully been used to indicate the presence or absence of:

Arms and ammunition
Explosives and explosive devices
Drugs and
Animal products such as Rhino horn, Ivory and Abalone.

Why the Belgian Malinois?



Highly intelligent

Excel at many jobs such as police work, narcotics and bomb detection, schutzhund,search and rescue, bomb detection,obedience,agility,tracking,herding,sled and cart pulling, guide dog for the blind and disabled.

High energy

However, these super smart dogs do need leadership and plenty of exercise. They need to be challenged, but make for the perfect family dog with the right family.

How does tracking work in the bush?

Handlers say a dog will act as an early warning and safety barrier for rangers and handlers. Poachers are becoming more heavily armed, with some carrying grenades. Rhino poachers will cut the horn on the downed rhino, while the rest of the group lie in ambush waiting for the field rangers. A handler and dog need a strong bond so that the handler will pick up almost imperceptible signs that a dog gives while walking or tracking. For example, a dog may lift his tail when he has a strong scent, or lift an ear if there are animals near by, or the hair on his back raises if people are close by.

If poachers are nearby, the specially trained dog can go forward and distract poachers, giving the rangers an advantage. The early warning and scent tracking ability of dogs gives rangers an advantage especially at night, which is when poachers are most active.

Dogs are less susceptible to anti-tracking decoys when they follow a scent ,so hopefully this will be the beginning to a successful anti-poaching project in Southern Africa.

Claudia Bensimoun

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