Meet ‘Killer’ the terrifyingly named poacher-catcher who tracks down illegal hunters across South Africa.
Since 2007, rhino poaching has risen rapidly every year in South Africa as animals are killed for their horn, used for its supposed medicinal qualities in predominately China, Vietnam and Thailand. In 2014, a record 1,215 rhino were killed and that number is set to be even higher by the end of this year.
Chosen for his focus and ferocity, the six-year-old jet black and tawny brown Belgian Malinois, Killer is the champion of the canine poacher-catchers. The six-year-old is dropped into search areas in the Kruger National Park by helicopter and accompanied by a group of armed rangers tracks down poachers.
The Belgian Malinois breed has long been excellent service animals and are used by military, police and private security organisations around the world, including US special forces. In 2011, a Belgian Malinois named Cairo was used in the operation to capture and kill Osama bin Laden. This year, the breed has also enjoyed some stardom on screen ‘Max#, a movie about a dog deployed in Afghanistan was released.
Killer was trained for 16 months before being sent to the Kruger aged 18 months to learn how to identify scents, to follow mock trails and to attack. Johan de Beer, kennel master at the Kruger canine unit said: ‘He’s had very good success so far, he’s very good on human scent tracking.’ De Beer adds that despite his name Killer is a gentle dog who is great at his job, ‘He’s actually a very placid dog. He likes riding in a chopper, stuff like that, he’s quite adventurous.’
In the first half of this year, Killer has already helped rangers arrest more than 15 poachers in the Kruger National Park.
Amid the carnage, this is a rare bit of good news thanks to dogs like Killer and Gladys, a lively Springer Spaniel who sniffs out guns and ammunition at park gates. Kruger authorities now plan to boost the number of dogs from 29 to more than 40 by the end of the year.
Read More on Kruger National Park, AFP, Dailymail