Changing Planet

In Africa, Tracker Dogs Join War Against Elephant Poachers

MANYARA RANCH, Tanzania—On October 14, tracker dogs led game scouts to a group of armed poachers who were on the run after shooting and killing a well-known old elephant bull just outside Tarangire National Park. This was the latest in a string of successes by Tanzania’s tracker dogs, which are proving to be an effective weapon in the bloody war on elephant poaching in East Africa.

“Apart from their incredible tracking abilities, dogs are wonderful to work with because they don’t have any political agenda—they can’t be compromised,” said Damien Bell, director of Big Life Tanzania, the conservation organization that manages the Big Life Tracker Dog Unit.

“Our dogs have tracked elephant poachers for up to eight hours at a time or more, through extreme conditions—heat, rain, wetlands, mountains—and still turned up results,” he said. “They love their handlers, and they do a job until the job is done.”

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Paul Steyn is a widely-published multi-media content producer from South Africa, and regular contributor to National Geographic News and blogs. Having guided throughout Africa for some years, he went on to edit a prominent travel magazine, and now provides digital content and expertise to various African lodges, NGO’s and travel companies.

In 2013, he joined a team of researchers and Bayei on a 250km transect of the Okavango Delta on traditional mokoros and blogged about the journey. In 2016, he accompanied the Great Elephant Census team in Tanzania and broke the groundbreaking results on National Geographic News .

Contact: paul@paulsteyn.com
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