There are a many different types of snare set in the bush, ranging from thick cable snares set for catching Buffalo, to smaller wire snares set for antelope. The wide variety of snare types meant we the dogs had to learn them all.
As well as the myriad metal snares set for mammals, we also found many different types of snares set for birds of different sizes. It is a really tough situation when this sort of poaching previously would have been subsistence poaching and at a sustainable level. With the swelling human population and the need for protein, more and more snares are being put out and it becomes more concerning that the bird populations can sustain the off-take. What is the effect of this on their natural predators?
This post is more a personal observation than reporting of news. I will post more on the actual work later on. We work with our dogs day in and day out, and sometimes it becomes all too easy to take for granted just how much they give us. As well as being fabulous companions, the trust they show in us is incredible and the bond you have with a dog that you are working in difficult conditions, would require someone far more eloquent than I am to describe.
While working in South Luangwa, we were often in areas where it was hard to see too far ahead of us, and with Faust working out in front and going wide, he quite literally stumbled into herds of elephants on a few occasions. He paid no attention to them whatsoever though and seemed to work on the philosophy that if I had sent him that way, it must be OK. We obviously tried to avoid this as far as possible, but as anyone who has walked in the bush will know, elephants can disappear into the bush very easily. I will be honest, it was those times in particular when I was very glad of his solid recall!
One incident that stands out in my mind, and I think will be permanently etched there, is being charged by a Hippo. We had moved areas already to get out of the way of a breeding herd of Elephants (that I had already sent Faust into - sorry Faust!) and were heading across to search for snares in another likely location along the Luangwa River, when there was suddenly a call of "Hippo!" followed by a very panicked "RUN!" from one of the armed guards. Seeing the armed guard running and shouting "RUN FASTER" over his shoulder, we ran after him. I hadn't even seen the Hippo. I had called Faust back at the first call of Hippo and he came, but despite the panic and danger, he did not even consider getting out of the way. He stayed right by my side, between me and the Hippo the whole time. The Hippo pulled up and after we had shaken off the hysteria, Faust was back to work.
While I am talking here about examples with Faust, it is really a thought about all working dogs, and their seemingly endless capacity to give of themselves. They are part of my day to day life, my home and my work, so it is easy to take them for granted sometimes. This post is really just an acknowledgement of how amazing these animals are and how they help us so much, in so many ways. Even people who don't live and breathe working dogs in the same way I do, think about the security you get from detection dogs checking transport and venues for explosives, about how much that service dog you see in the street helps its handler. "Man's best friend" is such a cliche, but I remember being told at school that cliches are only cliches because they are true. I feel truly blessed to having such a loving and loyal workforce in our team.