The most incorruptible hunters of the poachers – Big Life Foundation’s tracker dog unit in the Amboseli Ecosystem
The Big Life Foundation in Kenya is doing extensive work to protect over 2 million acres of wildlife and wild lands in the Amboseli-Tsavo-Kilimanjaro ecosystem – including one of the greatest populations of elephants left in East Africa. In addition to close collaboration with the Maasai villages through education, schooling and conservation programs, the protection of the region by rangers plays a central role in the fight against poaching and for the peaceful coexistence of humans and elephants. A very important part of their work is the tracking unit, which is infallible in the search for poachers and the provision of evidence. The unit trains daily and is on duty around the clock. The leader of the unit, Ranger Mutinda, was once a poacher before he came to Big Life. He has not only a special relationship with the dogs, but also knows how poachers think. Mutinda forms the core of the group, which includes 6 rangers and the Bloodhound siblings Bonnie and Clyde.
Below you may read about one of the many operations of the tracker dog unit:
This time it was Didi that was involved in tracking elephant poachers from a scene in Tsavo West National Park. “It started the same way that all elephant poaching incidents do – the grisly discovery of lifeless bodies, five of them in this case, lying in the bush with their faces hacked off. A family group of all ages. The Kenya Wildlife Service tracker dog was straight on the poachers’ trail. The Big Life tracker dog, Didi, and rapid response units joined the hunt where the tracks left the Tsavo West National Park, moving onto community land. The tracks ran and the rangers ran with them. Assisted at times by expert human trackers, the dogs led the rangers to two neighbouring homes. There was no sign of the ivory, but Didi led the search to a home that contained two axes and a saw, still wet with blood. With the help of the local community, two suspects were identified and arrested. Big Life activated its informer network and, a day later, word came back on a third member of the gang, hiding out in a small town some 40 miles from where the elephants were killed. An undercover Big Life team went in that evening, and together with a back-up unit, arrested the third suspect at 4am the next morning.”
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The tracker dog Didi died due to kidney failure in July 2019. The shepherd was brought in 2010 by Big Life co-founder Richard Bonham from a shelter in Kenya. Didi's extraordinary nose and her talent for listening in the classroom predestined her to become a tracker dog in the fight against poaching. Didi was considered a heroine, and her mere presence became a strong deterrent for potential poachers. Perhaps her most important achievement was the more than 15 km of tracking leading to the arrest of two suspects who had killed five elephants in Tsavo West National Park. Didi also tracked and found countless numbers of children lost in the wilderness. So she was a heroin to members of the local communities, too. Didi left a big pawprint in the Amboseli. She will be missed very much.
Read the obituary by Big Life:
Videoclip “Kenya’s tracker dogs – Saving the elephants” (Michael Deffert):
Videoclip shows the daily training of the tracker dogs in the Amboseli – a movie by FFE:
Big Life Foundation activities – a comprehensive overview: