Training of tracker dog

Innovative elephant-tracking method

July 2020

Whether natural causes or injuries inflicted by human kind (due to poaching attempts or retaliation for lost crops) is irrelevant. Elephants are endangered and are included in the Appendix II of the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) list. Therefore, we need to undertake every possible effort to help and treat wounded elephants to ensure their survival. Every single individual counts.

However, locating a wounded elephant sounds easier than it is. First of all – and due to no one’s fault at all -, it can take days before a wounded big tusker is even detected and reported. More valuable time is then lost by trying to locate the reported animal in order to treat it. Orphaned baby elephants can simply disappear in thick vegetation or high grass, whilst injured adults tend to actively hide and will try their best to remain undetected. Even a helicopter can easily miss a fully grown elephant if it is determined to hide under trees or in thick bush. And not everyone has a helicopter at their disposal to assist.

Guschtl, a Siberian Shepherd, is a secret weapon in the making. Just one year old, he trains hard and is exceptionally eager to work. The training takes place on several levels: Guschtl needs to sensitise his smell, become experienced and self confident in order to follow scent trails that are several hours old, whilst Eli, his trainer and handler, also needs to learn to trust him and his abilities and to read him accurately. It is not always easy for a human to follow a dog on a hot trail, as he can easily get through shrub that humans can’t pass, at least not as fast. With Eli’s knowledge and patience though, Guschtl will be able to develop his full potential and together they will be a very successful team in tracking and finding elephants in order to treat wounds.

Tracker dog Gustls meets elephant Malamboni
Gustl found the elephants Savannah and Burigi
Elisabeth and Gustl at work
Elisabeth and Gustl at work
Found them!
Found them!

Author: kilicrew

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