Ella, a Bloodhound Doberman cross, is the first cold scent dog to work with anti-poaching units in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.
She has been trained specifically to work on crime scenes which are more than a day old and can follow poachers’ tracks to determine their entry and exit points to reserves, as well as their shooting positions.
Medivet says that during her first year, none of the reserves where Ella has been active have lost a single rhino. A number of court cases are also ongoing in other reserves as a result of evidence she has uncovered at crime scenes.
The cost of training Ella, her handler, support vehicle and accommodation has all been funded by the Medivet Rhino programme and by the generous donations of Medivet clients, through the Pennies digital charity box scheme.
To date, Medivet Rhino has raised more than £315,000 via Pennies to help fund this rhino protection programme.
Dr William Fowlds from the Wilderness Foundation Africa (and former Medivet employee) said: "As a cold scent tracking dog, Ella brings a formidable skill set to our anti-poaching units. Her ability to track human footsteps across a variety of terrains, day or night, is a significant deterrent to those thinking of killing our rhinos. In addition, her gentle nature makes her an endearing member of the team so, even though she’s a working dog, we can sneak a little cuddle in every now and again."
He added: "Ella is a game changer in our efforts to protect rhinos. The difference she has made to our work in just one year means that we are now working with our partner, the Chipembere Rhino Foundation, to extend our canine resources. We are indebted to Medivet and its clients for supporting our work by giving us this wonderful dog."
Dr John Smithers, Senior Partner and Project Co-ordinator for Medivet Saving the Rhino, said: "We could not be prouder of Ella’s work to track poachers during her first year in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.
"With her incredible sense of smell, she has brought a new dimension to rhino protection in this region, and all of the agencies involved in protecting this iconic species benefit from her presence.
"We are deeply grateful to all our clients and staff who have supported Medivet Saving the Rhino (through Pennies and other donations) and wish Ella and her support team another successful year ahead."
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