Dog Saves Rhino Calf and Mother From Poachers

3 mins

Dan who saved the rhino calf is part of an anti poaching canine unit protecting wildlife across South Africa’s conservancies, parks and reserves

A dog trained in the UK has helped to save an 18-month-old rhino calf and his mother from poachers in South Africa.

Dan, the one-year-old Belgian malinois, was bred and trained at Dogs 4 Wildlife, an organisation which provides anti-poaching canines to protect endangered wildlife across Africa.

During his first week on the job with the K9 and anti-poaching unit, Dan found Viola, a white rhino calf that had been caught in a snare in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province with her mother nearby. The snare was removed thanks to the hard work of the team, the pair were both saved.

The costs involved in removing a snare from a young Rhino is tremendous, requiring helicopter and veterinary assistance. Both mother and calf needed to be darted from the air with ground support to guide and stabilise both animals.

Dogs 4 Wildlife director Jacqui Law said the ‘good outcome’ was the result of the team working together and this incident ‘was just one of many heart-breaking incidents of snare poaching that occurs in KwaZulu Natal – many of which do not have a happy outcome’.

In Dan’s first week with the anti poaching unit, the team found seventy snares.

 rhino calf being administered medicine
The team administer medicine to the rhino calf that was trapped in a snare

Dan, one of the organisation’s eight dogs, was deployed to KwaZulu Natal (KZN), a coastal South African province and one of South Africa’s top wildlife destinations, in February.

KwaZulu Natal is also home to around a quarter of the world’s black and white rhino populations, making it a hotbed for rhino horn and bushmeat poachers.

The South African province was also used as a location during the filming of The Woman King, released in October 2022. Calf Viola was born during the filming and named after lead actress, Viola Davies.

Law added: ‘Snare poaching does not discriminate on what species of animals it wounds or kills. This is a torturous method of catching wildlife for bushmeat.’

Dogs 4 Wildlife team in long grass pushing the rhino calf to assist it
It was all hands on deck to help the rhino calf. Image: Dogs 4 Wildlife

Junior Blom, canine project manager for conservation group Project Rhino said: ‘We are so pleased that this attempted rhino poaching incident had a positive outcome. Snare poaching and increased incidents in KZN with rhino poaching has been devastating.

There have been many more incidents and the death of several rhinos have been completely pointless as we have had rhinos shot that have been dehorned four months previously.’

Dan is named after dog-lover Daniel Bridle, from the UK who died at 18 years old in 2014 after a 20 month battle with brain cancer.

Inspired by Daniel’s love of animals, his mother Caroline raised £10,000 (AED 50,000) to sponsor Dan, to help track down rhino poachers in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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