Texas hounds are revolutionizing anti-poaching work in South Africa. By some estimates, 4,000 rhinos were killed in the Kruger National Park area during the past decade; how many remain there is debated, with claims ranging from 5,000 to 9,000. Since May 2018, the hounds, raised by Texas rancher Joe Braman, have contributed to a 24 percent drop in rhino poaching in the park and a 54 percent increase in apprehensions of poachers, authorities say.
In the past, law enforcement teams that used individual lead dogs to track poachers on foot struggled to keep up. Staff at the Southern African Wildlife College, a training facility outside Kruger, were eager to test free-running dogs in the area. After visiting, Braman, a passionate houndman and part-time cop, offered to train a team of his own dogs back in Texas and ship them to South Africa. In live operations, the hounds, wearing GPS collars, track a poacher’s scent, with helicopters and rangers close behind. By charging and biting en masse, the dogs keep their quarry at bay, Braman says: “If a dog starts attacking you, the first thing you’re gonna do is throw the gun and climb a tree.” —Paul Steyn