By engaging Karetta and Kelo, we are starting to employ conservation dogs to even better protect the endangered loggerhead turtles on the Cape Verde island of Boavista from poachers. A major reason for this is a weak spot of our otherwise very successful nighttime beach patrols: In the dark, poachers can easily hide behind the dunes in the landwards areas of the beaches and wait until our patrols have passed by. Poachers have learned in the meanwhile that a certain amount of time passes before a patrol returns, and they try to use this time to clandestinely catch turtles coming ashore for nesting.
Although all nesting beaches are patrolled completely several times a night, it is simply impossible to be everywhere at the same time on those spacious areas. This is where our dogs will kick in: Together with their specially trained dog handlers, the dogs are supposed to accompany the patrols and search the landwards areas of the beaches in zigzag mode. In case of finding people there, the dogs would signal this incident by barking, of course without interacting with the people or getting too close to them. The dog handlers and patrols will then investigate the situation and, in case they suspect poaching activity or find evidence of poaching, they will take videos and photos, and will secure evidence for a report and for prosecution. Of course, direct contact with the poachers will be avoided, unless police forces with appropriate powers accompany the patrols. However, the poachers’ activities will be massively disturbed, and any suspicion of poaching will be, of course, immediately brought to the attention of the authorities and documented by evidence gathered on location.
Canto beach in the northeastern part of Boavista. Dunes and bushes offer numerous hiding places for poachers, where especially at night they are very hard to detect without the use of search dogs.
A second important task will be the detection and documentation of such cases of poaching that perhaps cannot be prevented even with increased anti poaching activities. By searching the dunes during the day, remains of poached turtles or other indication of poaching activities, such as blood, tools that have been left, or traces from a turtle that has been dragged to an already departed vehicle, will be detected and reported to the authorities. By regularly reporting well documented incidents, the general awareness of the authorities on the poaching problem will be increased, and areas that are particularly vulnerable to poaching can be identified and then even better monitored. Last but not least, it is also planned to engage the dogs at Boavista’s airport and ship ports to track down smuggled turtle meat. Further, our dogs are supposed to support our public relations and children’s environmental education activities, since Labradors are a very friendly, lovely, and popular dog breed.