The Mara Sniffing Dog Unit – Anti poaching Efforts
The Maasai Mara is home to a high number of wildlife species that transverse between the Mara Triangle in Kenya and the Serengeti in Tanzania. At the same time, these animal are subjected to great danger by the greedy human population who are out to make money from the poor animal’s vulnerability.
Poaching has been high in this area mostly targeting the elephants and rhinos for their tusks which fetch a good amount of money, especially in the Asian continent. This has led the government and various wildlife conservation bodies to come up with various ways to end this menace.
They have come up with various anti-poaching efforts to help deal with this, one of them is the Mara Sniffing Dog unit which is managed the Mara conservancy game wardens. There are two dog units in the Mara;
- The tracker dogs composed of the bloodhound breed. These dogs have the ability to use their noses rather the eyes to detect any mishaps.
- The sniffer dogs based at the Gates. These dogs are trained to inspect every car entering and leaving the Mara. They are trained to detect any ivory leaving the Mara and also traces of gun powder in the vehicles. This is because poachers use guns to kill the elephants.
The dogs are imported from the US K9 units and come with dog specialists who train the dog handlers(wardens) and add to the knowledge they have on how to deal with poachers.
The dogs are fed twice a day, early in the morning and late in the evening. They feed on rice and chicken and some dog biscuits while milk is used to wet the food. They also need a lot of water to survive in the Savannah climate and the warden always carries water for the dogs while on patrol.
Dogs are very sensitive especially to tsetse fly found in the area and are at a danger of catching trypanosomiasis, hence need great care from their keepers before they can be allowed to go out in the wild.
Initially, the wardens only used to arrest the poachers they are able to see but with the help of the dogs, they can now track them from their hideouts by unleashing the dogs on the footprints left behind. Most of the time they do get to reach the poachers whom they chase to the point of arresting though some manage to escape.
When they come close to an area where they suspect the poachers have been, they enter every bush in the vicinity and check for snares that are normally set-up to trap the wild animals. The poachers are known to attack most during tourist peak season when the wildebeest and other herds have migrated to the Mara from the Serengeti.
The warden has been known to de-snare as many as 200-300 snares per day during the peak season. There is normally a duty roaster every day, for those who will go on patrol. They would wake up early, tend to the dogs then pack them up in the van and head to the bushes for patrol.
The first time the Mara wardens used these dogs, they were able to catch so many poachers as they didn’t know that it was possible to use dogs to track them down. Now the poachers are getting more advance in their ways and are coming up with new ways to outrun the wardens.
All in all the wardens are very grateful for the dogs because they have been able to reduce poaching activities in the Mara.
Report courtesy of Citizen TV Kenya.