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!
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.