With an incredible sense of smell, natural instincts for hunting, and a trainable nature, man’s best friend might just be nature’s best friend, too. The pooches of Working Dogs for Conservation are finding their niche in this world as anti-poaching agents by catching poachers, saving animals, and proving that when we lean into our talents, anything is paw-sible.
Have you ever been told you aren’t good enough for something? I’d bet that’s a pretty universal experience, and it’s been one for these dogs, too. Too energetic and driven to be good pets, the pups who make their way to the Working Dogs for Conservation program get a second chance at life, working with trainers who lean into those strengths, training them to catch criminals instead.
Working Dogs for Conservation works with agencies, NGOs, researchers and industry to train high-energy shelter dogs to become conservation detection dogs with a wide varitey of expertise. Their innovative approach solves one problem with another: they protect natural resources and end wildlife crime, while giving high energy rescue dogs—many of whom had been destined for kill shelters—a second chance to not only live but to do what they love.
With their incredible noses, tracking abilities, and trainability, the pooches with Working Dogs for Conservation search for gunshot casings, track invasive and endangered species, and catch poachers themselves in ways that are faster, more efficient, and more accurate than human searches. Their work is not only critical to stopping poachers but also to disrupting other forms of crime and trafficking that usually go hand-in-hand.
Stopping Poachers Means Stopping Crime–of All Kinds
From threatening the very survival of many (often endangered) species to disrupting the food chain, the poaching problem presents devastating ecological consequences for the environment and humans alike. 1 And while most of us are familiar with the impacts of high-profile poaching, like elephants for their tusks 2 and tigers for their teeth, claws, and skins, 3 we don’t often think of the ways in which these kinds of illegal activities are connected to other forms of crime. Often, it’s not just wildlife products that are being trafficked, but weapons, humans, and drugs. That means that catching these poachers not only helps the environment but takes steps to prevent other forms of her crime around the world, too. These poachers are active everywhere, all the time, and that’s where the keen canines of Working Dogs for Conservation come in.
Not just man’s best friend, but nature’s best friend, too!
“A dog is able to smell a teaspoon of sugar dissolved into the amount of water it would take to fill two Olympic swimming pools.”– Kayla Fratt, Former Canine Specialist with Working Dogs for Conservation
Mostly high-energy, ball-crazy rescues, Working Dogs for Conservation has trained more than 200 dogs working all around the world, and currently actively works with about 40. And each has a specialty: Atlas finds shark fins, Chai specializes in rhino horns, DJ sniffs out ammunition, Diesel finds invasive species… the list of these incredible (and not to mention adorable) dogs goes on. These exceptional hounds have put 150+ poachers out of business by catching poachers before they commit the crimes by detecting guns and ammo, tracking them on foot, or finding illegally trafficked wildlife contraband in vehicles, parcels, or containers.
Here are the paws of justice themselves, with Benny, Barley, and the whole Working Dogs for Conservation crew. Check it out to learn more about these amazing dogs and their invaluable work.
(Content warning: While there are no depictions of brutalized animals in this video, footage does contain images of the tusks, furs, and fins of poached animals).
Look at your “weaknesses” differently – they may actually be strengths!
The exact same things that make these dogs bad pets – being high energy and fixated on certain things – is what makes them perfect for this job of protecting animals and working in wild places. So which of your perceived weaknesses might actually be a strength? Does your high energy lend well to playing with the kiddos in your life? Might your numbers-fixated brain actually help you with taxes, retirement, and the like? Could your recklessness actually lead you to have wonderful experiences you might not have otherwise?
When we reframe the qualities that society tells us are bad, we might actually find some weird and wonderful uniqueness that makes us exactly who we are.
For more incredible stories of animals helping save the world, check these articles out next!
Creating Water Out of Thin Air! The Desert Beetle Revolutionizing Our Water Crisis
In our fight to bring clean, fresh water to billions of people around the world, innovators now have a new source of inspiration from the middle of the… desert? A beetle with a unique ability to capture water out of thin air is inspiring a new generation of life-saving technologies!Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast
The 2,000-Pound Vegetarians Slowing Climate Change
Some of our best environmental engineers when it comes to winning the race to slow climate change have turned out to be these natural (and very cute) prairie-preserving specialists! Here’s how bison are restoring a previously destroyed landscape and keeping tons of carbon out of our atmosphere along the way.Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast
So remember, be exactly who you are. You never know when those odd quirks might become your superpower.
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- WWF. “Stopping Elephant Ivory Demand.” WWF, World Wildlife Fund, https://www.worldwildlife.org/initiatives/stopping-elephant-ivory-demand. ↩
- “Threats to African Elephants.” WWF, https://wwf.panda.org/discover/knowledge_hub/endangered_species/elephants/african_elephants/afelephants_threats/. ↩
- “Tiger Poaching Statistics.” PoachingFacts, https://www.poachingfacts.com/poaching-statistics/tiger-poaching-statistics/. ↩
- Seeker. How Dogs Are Used to Protect Endangered Species – Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QzfMqrFC3Vg. ↩