Rhino protection in the Eastern Cape has been intensified with the deployment of Cyrus, a new K9 anti-poaching team member, thanks to a multi-year collaboration among several local organisations with collective passion to protect our wildlife.
Cyrus, a specially-trained four-year-old Sable Shepherd, recently joined the Anti-Poaching Unit (APU) at the local Kariega Game Reserve, following a three-year project representing a partnership between Chipembere Rhino Foundation (CRF), K9DPS (Bronyx K9 Training College), RAGES (The Rotarian Action Group for Endangered Species), Global Conservation Force (GCF) and Kariega Game Reserve.
Cyrus is one of five trained CRF K9s that have been deployed to Eastern Cape anti-poaching units and are on active duty. CRF, the local registered non-profit and public benefit organisation in support of rhino protection, is the facilitator of the K9 programme in the Eastern Cape, due to its solid reputation, credibility and significant experience in project managing K9 units on the ground. CRF oversees and project manages the Kariega unit, and provides additional training, expertise and guidance to the handler.
Specifically bred and highly trained by Aidon, Cardel and Anthony Lippstreu from Bronyx K9 Training College, Cyrus was donated to CRF and housed at Sardinia Bay Kennels in Port Elizabeth during his three years of training. When Kariega approached CRF for assistance with establishing K9 operations on the reserve, CRF decided it would be suitable to donate Cyrus to Kariega.
“Cyrus is very special to us and has mastered his highly specialised skills with drive and enthusiasm over the last three years,” says Aidon Lippstreu from K9DPS. “He is skilled in tracking, obedience and protection and we are very pleased that he has established great rapport with his handler – they get along so well!”
Cyrus’ new handler, Daniel Haesslich, also attended a month-long K9 handling course at Bronyx K9 Training Academy to the value of around R22,000, sponsored by Global Conservation Force (GCF). “This has been a life changing experience,” says Haesslich. “Cyrus and I continue to train every day to improve our skills, and we work well together as a team.”
Cyrus’ specialised dog kennel on the anti-poaching vehicle was professionally built and mounted by Sieger K-9 Transport Systems in Port Elizabeth. The Rotary District 9370, under the umbrella of The Rotarian Action Group for Endangered Species (RAGES) and their ongoing flapship rhino project with partner CRF, contributed R18,000 towards the mobile kennel unit and necessary K9 equipment and harnesses.
“Investing in K9 units is making a huge impact in safeguarding Eastern Cape wildlife,” explains Brent Cook, founder of CRF. “We believe that our training and success in this regard has ignited international and local collaborations, providing this vital tool in combating rhino poaching and supporting all role players that protect our iconic rhino.”
The deployment of Cyrus comes at a crucial time, as the South African Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) reported last week that the number of rhinos poached in the Eastern Cape increased by 58% from 12 to 19 in 2018.
Chris Reyneke of Kariega Game Reserve’s APU says that Cyrus is an integral part of the reserve’s multi-pronged approach to combat poaching. “A highly trained anti-poaching K9 is a crucial component as we build a holistic team with advanced skills to protect our rhinos. Cyrus will also assist us in raising community awareness of the poaching crisis, visiting schools in the surrounding area as part of the Kariega Foundation’s current Environmental Education Programme. We are already planning to expand our team with another K9 this year.”