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Elite Dog Unit Trained To Protect Wildlife Has Saved 45 Rhinos From Poachers During Lockdown

A team of elite trained dogs trained to protect wildlife in the region remain hard at work during lockdown, and have saved 45 rhinos from poachers.

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(TMU) – With countries across the world facing lockdown measures, a massive swathe of legal economic activities have ground to a halt – and this is true just as much in South Africa as in other countries.

Poachers have exploited the absence of humans on South Africa’s game reserves and the virtual stoppage of the safari business to stalk the area and continue hunting down wilderness. According to ITV, at least nine rhinos have been killed since lockdown measures were introduced in mid-March.

However, a team of elite trained dogs trained to protect wildlife in the region remain hard at work, and have saved 45 rhinos from poachers, reports the Daily Mail.

The pack of dogs is drawn from numerous breeds, ranging from beagles to bloodhounds, but each dog has been able to make a major contribution to protecting the endangered species from the poachers.

Support the SAWC K9 unit

Rhino populations are in critical danger. The Southern African Wildlife College has introduced specially trained tracking dogs to their anti-poaching efforts.

Posted by ORIJEN South Africa on Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The dogs are trained from birth and conditioned to tolerate the pressures of actual operations before they are released in the field, which usually takes place when they reach 18 months old.

Photos of the elite team of dogs in action at the Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC) in Greater Kruger National Park were recently shared by Sean Viljoen, a 29-year-old filmmaker based in Cape Town.

Viljoen owns a production company called Conservation Film Company, which works with filmmakers across the globe to depict the work of conservationists through cinematic storytelling.

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Check out my partner @Ivan.carter’s page to learn more about his Foundation and the projects they support – visit the ICWCA website to find out how you can help! In order for impactful donor funded conservation efforts to remain effective, the continued support of these initiatives is required. The tourism industry in Africa has come to a standstill and the flow of funding from donors has dried up in many areas. While this is understandable, the needs on the front line to protect these vestiges of biodiversity remains constant – anti-poaching efforts, operating costs, staff, etc. all need to be maintained through this crisis. As the world shuts down in the onslaught of a pandemic, the effects are wide-ranging. Yet I can’t help but wonder, if from a different perspective, the human species could be seen as a similar onslaught on the natural world. While our success as a species has contributed to shrinking biodiversity and the loss of habitat for wildlife, there are also those humans that see the value in the protection of our natural heritage and those people and projects deserve our support.

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Johan van Straaten, the dog master at the SAWC’s 9 unit, explained:

“The data we collect for this applied learning project, aimed at informing best practice, shows we have prevented approximately 45 rhinos being killed since the free tracking dogs became operational in February 2018.

“In the areas where the Southern African Wildlife College patrol, the success rate of the dogs is around 68 percent using both on and off leash free tracking dogs, compared to between three to five percent with no canine capacity.”

With roughly 80 percent of the world’s 29,000 rhinos left in the world being located in South Africa, poachers consider the region to be a target-rich environment, where poachers can pursue their dreams of getting rich quick by murdering the helpless creatures and selling their remains to the highest bidder.

And with the rhino’s prized horn fetching up to $100,000 per kilogram (2.2 lbs), poachers are able to make between $100,000 to $350,000 from just a single horn. Many of the buyers come from Asia, where the horns are typically ground into a powder and used in traditional medicine in countries like China and Vietnam. In the local black market, however, prices hover at around $3,000 per pound.

And with the Greater Kruger National Park Area being a vast open habitat, the rapid mobility of dogs make them perfectly suited for cracking down on the grisly trade.

Van Straaten continued:

“The game changer has been the free tracking dogs who are able to track at speeds much faster than a human can, in terrain where the best human trackers would lose spoor.

“As such, the project is helping ensure the survival of southern Africa’s rich biodiversity and its wildlife including its rhino which have been severely impacted by wildlife crime … Over the past decade over 8,000 rhinos have been lost to poaching, making it the country hardest hit by this poaching onslaught.”

The team of dogs include Belgian Malinois, Blue Ticks, Foxhounds, and Texan Black-and-Tan Coonhounds. The pups are trained in various counter-poaching tactics such as detection, free tracking, incursion, patrol and apprehension.

Prior to the college acquiring the dogs, anti-poaching enforcement teams only managed to catch 3 to 5 percent of known poachers, according to National Geographic. The new K9 unit allowed the rate to improve tenfold to an estimated 54 percent.

With this crack team of dogs on task, rhino conservationists have been able to minimize the harm criminals do to the massive park’s wildlife – while keeping poachers on the run.

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Animals

Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida

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A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.

Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.

In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.

“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.

Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.

Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.

Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.

Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.

However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.

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Animals

Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son

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A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.

The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.

The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.

“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.

“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.

The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.

The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.

“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.

The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.

The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.

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Blue Whales Return to Spain’s Coast After Disappearing for 40 Years

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Blue whales have been returning to the Atlantic coast of Spain after an absence of over 40 years in the region, when whaling industries drove the species to the brink of extinction.

Blue whales, which are the world’s largest mammals, had long disappeared from the region until the recent sightings.

The first was spotted off the coast of Galicia near Ons Island by marine biologist Bruno Díaz, who heads the Bottlenose Dolphin Research.

Another one of the majestic creatures was spotted the following year in 2018 and yet another in 2019. In 2020, two whales again made their return to the area.

It remains unclear as of yet as to why the creatures have returned to the area, but controls on local whaling industries are believed to play a role.

“I believe the moratorium on whaling has been a key factor,” Díaz remarked, according to the Guardian. “In the 1970s, just before the ban was introduced, an entire generation of blue whales disappeared. Now, more than 40 years later, we’re seeing the return of the descendants of the few that survived.”

Whaling had been a traditional industry in Galicia for hundreds of years before Spain finally acted to ban whaling in 1986, long after the blue whale’s presence in the region had faded away.

Some fear that the return of the massive sea mammals is a sign of global warming.

“I’m pessimistic because there’s a high possibility that climate change is having a major impact on the blue whale’s habitat,” said marine biologist Alfredo López in comments to La Voz de Galicia.

“Firstly, because they never venture south of the equator, and if global warming pushes this line north, their habitat will be reduced,” he continued “And secondly, if it means the food they normally eat is disappearing, then what we’re seeing is dramatic and not something to celebrate.”

Díaz said that while the data certainly supports this theory, it is too early to determine climate as the precise cause.

“It is true that the data we have points to this trend [climate change] but it is not enough yet,” he told Público news.

Another possibility is that the ancestral memory of the old creatures or even a longing for their home may offer an explanation, according to Díaz.

“In recent years it’s been discovered that the blue whale’s migration is driven by memory, not by environmental conditions,” he said. “This year there hasn’t been a notable increase in plankton, but here they are. Experiences are retained in the collective memory and drive the species to return.”

In recent years, researchers have found that migratory patterns are also driven by the cultural knowledge existing in many groups of species.

Researchers believe this type of folk memory, or cultural knowledge, exists in many species and is key to their survival.

A typical blue whale is 20-24 metres long and weighs 120 tonnes – equivalent to 16 elephants – but specimens of up to 30 metres and 170 tonnes have been found.

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