Otis is a hound. A bloodhound. He is barely over a year old, but his ears are massive, his paws are heavy and playing with him can knock the wind out of a grown man.
We meet him and others at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. He is let out of his pen to play with us, but some of his colleagues – like attack dog Diego – are kept locked up.
Otis is a tracker. He is used by the rangers to track down cattle thieves and poachers who make their way into the expansive Ol Pejeta Conservancy.
He received his expert training at the ranch via the White Paw Dog Training company and is very efficient at what he does. It’s a game to him, a game he is very good at.
These are the rules. Rangers capture the ‘scents’ of the thieves or poachers and allow Otis and crew to sniff them. Once he picks the scent, off he goes with a ranger in tow.
Its not an easy game, the dog runs as the ranger follows behind him, through shrubbery, thorns and thickets. After 6 kilometres, they switch, like a relay race – and a second tracker with his ranger picks up the scent and continues with the run.
Once the suspects are found, or once the source of the scent is discovered, the dogs jump on the suspect as if it to say “done it!’ and they get a sausage for their efforts. It seems so simple.
And it’s a fun game for the dogs, but for the rangers and those involved in the work that is conservation, this is serious business.
Paul Lesorion, who is in charge of the K-9 unit at the conservancy says that when a crime is committed there is increased adrenalin and so the scent is very strong at that particular point.
All crimes reported are traced back by the rangers to the place they were committed.
Side bar. Communities around the conservancy have a close relationship with Ol Pejeta; it’s a symbiotic connection where the community assist in conservation and anti-poaching efforts, while the conservancy chips in by helping track down cattle rustlers, provide grazing ground as well as employment.
Using the heightened presence of scent, rangers are able to capture this and use Otis and crew to track down the criminals.
Cases of poaching have reduced dramatically and now visitors can go to the conservancy and develop a closer understanding of the work being done to protect several species of animals, including elephants and rhinos.
Learn more about what you can experience at Ol Pejeta on this link and the easy way you will get to be a part of supporting these efforts.
During a recent trip with Turnup Travel we got to experience first hand how Otis likes to play. It’s fascinating. Check out this video to see what it looks like.