It’s been a long drive for Sean van Niekerk, Peace Parks’ former Counter-Poaching Manager, as he makes his way close to the Lesotho border post in South Africa where he is about to meet Chicago, Peace Parks Foundation’s newest and hairiest four-legged team member. This canine will soon become an integral part of the protection of wildlife and it is clear to see from Chicago’s seemingly endless energy, that she will be an asset to the team.
Sean takes Chicago to Limpopo National Park in Mozambique, where she starts her initial training. After meeting the team, she is taken on her first training session which allows her to bond with her dog handler and get accustomed to her new environment. Starting with short distances, Sean sets a trail through the bush making sure to leave his scent for Chicago to follow. The types of dogs used in counter-poaching canine units have a highly developed sense of smell and can detect strange scents left by poachers in the bush.
When the team is comfortable with her progress, Chicago will be taken to Zinave National Park where she will join the counter-poaching unit there, helping to boost the effectiveness of ranger patrols and giving additional support in the detection of any poaching incursions.
In recent years, Zinave has undergone a remarkable transformation. The once silent forests are now thriving with life, so the park requires additional support to ensure that the wildlife remains safe.
The increase of Zinave’s wildlife numbers can be attributed to the dedicated efforts of Peace Parks Foundation and its long-term partner, the Mozambique National Administration for Conservation Areas, who introduced several key species through the process of rewilding. However, as wildlife numbers continue to grow, so too does the risk of poaching so in response, Zinave National Park recently appointed an additional 34 new field rangers, which you can find out more about here.
Dogs like Chicago are born for hunting and capable of tracking human spoor that are several hours old over vast distances. The benefits of this outweigh what current technology can deliver when it comes to detection and tracking in the African bush environment. Peace Parks recognises the remarkable capabilities of these highly trained dogs and welcome them as respected members of the team.
Keep watching Peace Parks TV to follow Chicago’s training.