South Africa’s Anti-Poaching Dogs working for Rhinos.

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Hills Pet Nutrition. – Today I was told about the dogs working in conservation, something I knew little about and asked for more details. This is the press release from Hills Pet Nutrition which offers some background. I look forward to learning more.

We are all aware of the poaching crisis facing our country, especially in large areas with a high concentration of rhino like the Kruger National Park. The anti-poaching fight can be violent and intense, but it is not one that is being fought by man alone – dogs play a crucial role in protecting rhino and other wildlife

In fact man’s best friend is invaluable in finding injured or slain animals, tracking criminals and protecting their handlers, often in the face of enemy fire.

Currently fox hounds and Malinois, a type of Belgian Shepherd, are the dog breeds being used in anti-poaching work in greater Kruger area. They need to be in peak physical condition and require an excellent sense of smell.

“Nutrition is critical to the success of the dog doing its work,” said Dr Markus Hofmeyr, Head of SANParks Veterinary Wildlife Services in the Kruger National Park, where they choose to feed their dogs Hill’s Science Plan Performance.

“It starts right from puppyhood”, says Dr Guy Fyvie, veterinary advisor for Hill’s. “High levels of the fatty acid DHA in puppy food is proven to improve brain and eye development, making the dog more intelligent and trainable, and potentially improving the sense of smell.” Correct feeding of growing large breed puppies also helps to prevent musculoskeletal conditions such as Hip Dysplasia.

Energy levels are crucial for hard working dogs, as they can expend up to four times more than normal; “Panting, excitement, stress and covering long distances burn up huge amounts of calories,” says Fyvie.

Feeding large amounts of normal food is not the answer though; having a full bowel reduces working effectiveness. These athletic dogs need highly digestible food i.e. maximum energy and nutrients with lower volumes.

Interestingly the animal’s sense of smell is also affected by nutrition. According to studies*, excess amounts of saturated fat in the diet can lead to a loss of this crucial sense. Because working dogs need higher fat levels for energy it is important that more than half the fat is unsaturated, i.e. sourced from chicken, fish and plants. Free radicals can also damage sensitive “smell” membranes over time, which makes high levels of antioxidants all the more important.

It is reported that around 505 poachers have been arrested in the Kruger National Park since the introduction of dogs as support to their anti-rhino poaching operations three and a half years ago. Well done pups, you truly are worthy of praise – and the best food out there!

Watch the insert on Expresso Show for more background here.

Above photo of Edward Nyabanga with Loco was taken in the Kruger National Park by Cathy Williams of Hills SA who told me about this incredible campaign.

For regular news and updates connect with Hill’s on Facebook or follow them on Twitter. To find out more how to support SANParks visit their website.

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