The Mara Conservancy has just made a giant leap forward in anti-poaching efforts. Just this week they welcomed eight dog-handling rangers and two new “officers” into their ranks. After an intensive four-week training with two professional dog trainers from the Colorado police department, these dogs are ready to assist the Conservancy and surrounding lodges.
Using their amazing bloodhound sense of smell, the rangers will bring these dogs to poachers’ camps and follow individual tracks left behind as people flee. For Mamusi and Murani (the dogs; meaning “something we’ve been waiting for” and “warrior” in Masai) following the trails left by the poachers is the easy part. For the rangers, keeping up with such strong dogs that enjoy every minute of tracking, is much more challenging.
Jeff and I had the opportunity to follow along on a training exercise and boy can these dogs run! To prepare the rangers for extreme all-night tracking, each ranger had to go through (and continue) rigorous conditioning. This includes running multiple kilometers around the camp daily, all-encompassing weight training, and being able to traverse the nearby escarpment in under seven minutes!
We ran about a mile and a half following the dogs in our practice run, and I cannot imagine what it must feel like during the real thing. Running through the dark of night with no lights, surrounded by grass that is at least eight feet tall, all the time searching for people that you know have no remorse for breaking laws.
After lightly jogging behind these dogs, I know there is absolutely no way I could out-run them in the middle of the night.
Good luck poachers when they are at full speed!
Author: Jeff Smith
In a land where Elf (the dominant female) is queen and clashes with lions are the norm, we bring you a clan. Located between the beautiful Oz Valley and the famous Mara River, this is where the drama unfolds. Known to many as “fisi,” we just call them “North.” This is the North Side Story.
Episode 2: “Fifty Cent’s Triumph”
It was just like any other day at the North den. That was until food was brought back for the cubs. It was at first a free for all with Krest, Avalanche, Sagrada and Fifty Cent fighting over the small leftovers. Sagrada then stealthily swooped in and stole the food from the other cubs and ran across the den to keep what was left for himself.
This peeked the interest of a previously sleeping Muay Tai who ganged up with Fifty Cent to try and recover the food with force. Sagrada nimbly avoided these two but in doing so he missed the sneak attack by Avalanche. Avalanche took advantage of the distraction by Muay Tai and Fifty Cent and claimed the food for himself. After successfully stealing the food, Avalanche came snout to snout with his big brother Tsunami. Dominant versus submissive. A showdown between brothers.
Tsunami saw his opportunity and without hesitation made his move. He did not count on Avalanche’s patented side-step move, and Avalanche smoothly slid by his brother who missed the food completely. This last movement woke a sleeping (as usual) Jiu-Jitsu who decided Avalanche’s prize looked like a tasty morsel. Jiu-Jitsu knew he was bigger than Avalanche so he tried a rush approach on the food. Avalanche was not fooled and countered with a bite that caught Jiu-Jitsu off guard and caused him to retreat quickly. Avalanche then made his first mistake. He set down his prize to look for further attacks. At that point Fifty Cent swiftly swooped in and tore the remaining meat off the bone and quickly retreated into the den, leaving Avalanche staring in disbelief. Within a couple of minutes Fifty Cent reemerged from the den without the food and looking quite triumphant. Fifty Cent’s raid temporarily distracted Avalanche giving the other cubs a chance to sneak in and secure the prize.
What followed was a melee of attacks until Sagrada again emerged with the prize. His capturing of the prize surprised him so much, considering his low rank that he overlooked the one cub he should have been watching for, Fifty Cent.
Fifty Cent bided his time until he knew Sagrada was lost in chewing. He then snuck in and grabbed the bone from the complacent Sagrada and again raced back into the den leaving all the other cubs staring in confusion.
Notes From Kenya is a blog run by the students in the Holekamp Lab at Michigan State University, College of Natural Science, East Lansing, Michigan, U.S.A.