JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Meet Arrow and his handler, Henry Holtshyzen. Harnessed together, they take off across the vast wildlife preserve. Arrow seems unperturbed, even as they hurl themselves out of the helicopter, falling more than 6,000 feet to earth — and landing in the middle of the poaching wars.
“Getting the dog to the frontlines as fast as possible is always a challenge and parachuting and rappelling is one of the ways of getting dog boots on the ground where they are needed,” Holtshyzen says. These elite dogs are trained to immediately sniff out the poacher, rushing to attack, pinning the poacher to the ground until more help arrives. This may be a training exercise, but the dog’s bites are real — and special bite-proof suits are needed.
The dogs are up against up against highly-trained, heavily-armed poachers who run a multimillion-dollar industry trading in elephant and rhino horn. In the past seven years, a third of Africa’s elephants have been wiped out.
Nearly 100 of these sky diving dogs have been placed in game reserves across Africa. In one region, they caught more than 100 poachers in 18 months. Holtshyzen told us one dog, Killer, nabbed more poachers than rangers equipped with the latest high tech weapons.
“That is the most effective tool against poaching ever used and it’s low technology, it’s low cost compared to other technologies. And it works,” Holtshyzen says.
Man’s best friend may turn out to be a poacher’s worst enemy.