Local woman, dog form last line of defence against poachers – OrilliaMatters

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Specially trained dogs are known to be indispensable in law enforcement around the world.
They are now becoming increasingly important in Africa in anti-poaching efforts.
The K9 Ranger Project is a North American-based volunteer group with a mission to train and equip anti-poaching canine handlers in the African wilderness.
Barrie’s Elise Claridge, who has both military and law enforcement experience, is one of the head trainers with the Simcoe County branch.
She recently returned from Victoria Falls, along the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia in Africa, taking part in a training seminar for local rangers.
The poaching trade in Africa is big business, as hunters kill for horns, antlers, tusks, fur and even bush meat. 
Among the most sought-after animals are black and white rhinos, which are under 24-hour armed protection. Those are hunted for their horns.
Other endangered species are leopards, lions and cheetahs.
The fight is against both organized crime and local hunters.
“Ironically, while the ivory trade is a big deal, there are actually too many elephants in Africa," Claridge says.
According to the K9 Ranger Project, for several years, conservation groups in Africa have been enlisting the help of dogs in their efforts and the K9 Ranger Project has answered the call.
Claridge says she got involved because of the obvious need.
“We know the units are underfunded and under-equipped and have great difficulty getting their job done," she says. "We held seminars on canine training, theory and canine and human medical treatment.
"The rangers are really up against it, being the only line of defence between poachers and the most endangered species of wildlife.”
The dogs are used for their ability to track, do detection work and apprehend poachers.
"In other words, they are tracking the people, not the animals," Claridge says. "The canines are not the be all and end all, but more a piece of a big puzzle."
Rangers use different breeds, from German shepherds and Belgian shepherds to bloodhounds and English pointers, not to mention Bavarian mountain dogs.
"That’s another issue – getting good dogs, period, not to mention certified trainers," she adds. “We give them the education and then the local rangers take it from there." 
The group continues to do fundraising to make more trips possible.
“There's so much work to be done, but we change the world by protecting its resources," Claridge says. 
All travel is done on her vacation time from the Barrie Police Service, where she's a constable, and done on her own dime.
She expects to return in April 2025.
Visit K9RangerProject.com for more information and how to donate. 
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About the Author: Wendy King
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