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Fearless females in the conservation battle

The world has been graced with many fearless female stalwarts who have led in the way of wildlife conservation.

Every day, these heroes put it all on the line in a concerted effort to battle wildlife trafficking, poaching, and the destruction of the habitat of at-risk species, preventing the decimation of our wildlife populations.

Three notably heroic women are Esther Matthew, specialist conservation officer at the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Drylands Conservation Programme, Southern African Wildlife College’s chief executive officer, Theresa Sowry and Vicki Hudson, conservation intelligence manager at the CapeNature Conservation Detection Dog project.

The CapeNature Conservation Detection Dog project is one of the first live target conservation detection programmes operational in South Africa. This means these clever and unique hounds are trained to help track living endangered species to ensure their future population growth in a safe and secure environment unaffected by human activities.

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Esther and her trusty female partner Jessie, a Border Collie and scent detection dog, are on a mission to save some of South Africa’s critically endangered species. Their Drylands programme operates in the vast Karoo. Jessie has been instrumental in locating rare African Giant Bullfrogs underground, and the critically endangered Riverine Rabbit, helping to ensure their long-term survival.

ORIJEN sponsors the Drylands initiative’s detection dogs with its Biologically Appropriate dog food, featuring an unmatched 85 per cent meat content. This meat-based diet provides everything these valiant scent detection dogs need to thrive and do a sterling job in identifying and saving vulnerable species.

Another project which is supported by ORIJEN pet food is the Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC)’s counter-poaching K9 unit. The College’s free tracking (off-leash) dogs have to date, in conjunction with the on-lead dogs, saved approximately 47 rhinos which have, in turn, led to 152 poacher arrests and 65 rifles recovered since the project’s inception in February last year.

‘The free-tracking hounds have been the game-changer. The hounds’ ‘noses’, speed and stamina allow them to track much faster than a human or on-leash dog can, often across rough terrain,’ said Theresa Sowry.

The CapeNature Conservation Detection Dog project sees dogs being trained to find no less than five species of tortoises, each of which has their own unique scent.

Vicki Hudson in her role at CapeNature sees to it that their four-legged conservation heroes locate cryptic and camouflaged species of conservation concern such as the critically endangered Rose’s Mountain Toadlet.

Together with their fearless female human companions, the dogs have participated in numerous search and rescue operations, salvaging tortoises from death by fire, lack of food and water from the drought and even bulldozers when a piece of land they live on is being developed.

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