4 min read

Training animals to save animals

Bandit, the dog that protects rhinos and elephants

When we talk about conservation and the survival of a species, it is generally with the aim of preservation for future generations. However, if the poaching epidemic continues at its current rate we will almost certainly see the demise of the African elephant and black rhino within ten years – our own generation.

Man has systematically brought these species to the brink of extinction and, with this in mind, it may be time to let man pass the anti-poaching baton to dogs.

A Bandit a day keeps the poachers away!

Bandit and Chocolate at Mkomazi National Park

Born in September 2013, Bandit was one of eleven puppies donated to a small UK based non-profit organisation called Animals Saving Animals, with the sole purpose of being trained as an anti-poaching dog to serve in conservation efforts. Very quickly after their arrival, training began along with the decision process of which puppies would take on which role(s) – tracker, searcher or apprehender.

Bandit was very special. He immediately showed a willingness to please but always had a respectful look in his eye that said: "We're going to work together as a team". He was classified as 'Infantry Patrol', which means that he is trained to patrol with his handler and indicate the presence of a poacher. In favourable conditions, he can detect a poacher from up to one kilometre away. His role is to then silently chase and apprehend the guilty party by biting any part of the body and maintaining his grip. In addition, Bandit can also pinpoint and lead his handler towards gunfire, which is extremely difficult for humans to locate in the African bush when only a few shots are fired.

In October 2014 Bandit and his siblings passed their training and it was decided that Bandit and his sister, Chocolate, a classified tracker and apprehender, would be donated to Mkomazi National Park in Tanzania under the direction of Mr Tony Fitzjohn OBE.

On arrival at Mkomazi, Bandit was teamed with his new handler – a softly spoken but strong ranger called Penyelli. The pair's knowledge grew quickly and now, six months on, they are an effective part of the park's anti-poaching team. The bond between bandit and Penyelli is unbreakable and there is nothing more satisfying than witnessing man and dog working together to achieve an objective.

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