Dogs are incredibly effective in anti-poaching operations because their olfactory system, the part of the brain responsible for processing smell, is more developed than that of humans. Whereas we have 5 million receptors on our olfactory membrane, the average large dog has 200 million. A bloodhound, like Fury, has roughly 300 million of these receptors making them paws-down the most smell sensitive dogs and an invaluable member of an anti-poaching team. Fury is the only on-leash tracking dog. Being 75% bloodhound and 25% Doberman, means he has a great mix of skills. He can pick up scents up to 24 hours old and can travel up to 20km in one stretch.
Free-running pack dogs are also really effective in the field. The dogs are trained in detection work and can actively help rangers stop poachers in their tracks. While on-leash tracker dogs are commonly used by counter-poaching teams, pack dogs that run off-leash are relatively new to the scene, but are already proving their worth. They can track at high speeds over even the most difficult terrain. Their top speeds, measured regularly over short distances, are about 40 kilometres an hour. In order to keep track of them at all times, each dog is fitted with a GPS tracking collar so teams can follow their movements. Furthermore, using aerial support to follow the dogs allows the rangers in pursuit of poachers to make up valuable time in the field.
Peace Parks and Mozambique’s National Administration for Conservation Areas, working with various other partners deployed Limpopo National Park’s first canine unit back in 2019 in order to strengthen wildlife protection efforts there.
Tracker dog Fury and his handler have since become valued members of the security team by contributing to successful security operations. Says Peace Parks’ Senior Project Manager, Antony Alexander, “Dogs are proven to be one of the most effective force-multipliers in anti-poaching operations. They have made international headlines with their successes and there is no doubt that when they are deployed in an area, illegal poaching activities are reduced. A canine unit is invaluable when trying to secure a park that is over a million square hectares with limited resources.”