The fight for rhinos
“You start with a dog that doesn’t know what you want from it and then it ends up saving a rhino.”
When Tina de Flamingh arrived in South Africa as a tourist, with two suitcases and a love for dogs and nature, no one would have predicted the contribution she would go on to make to countering rhino poaching in the country’s iconic Kruger National Park. But she is a woman who quietly defies expectations and flips stereotypes on their head, as Dianne Tipping-Woods discovered in a conversation with a woman who lives life on her own terms.
“Training dogs to help nature is amazing. The training process is fascinating. You start with a dog that doesn’t know what you want from it and then it ends up saving a rhino. It’s worth all the sweat and tears,” said Tina de Flamingh her energy glowing like a hot coal.
South Africa has been her base for the last two years as a pivotal member of one of southern Africa’s most innovative and successful K9 anti-poaching units from the Southern African Wildlife College. The College is situated just 10 kilometres from Kruger’s Orpen Gate and its K9 unit has pioneered new approaches to working with dogs in counter-poaching operations, including the use of free-running pack dogs, which can track suspected poachers off leash.
Counter poaching heros
Tina stresses that the dogs are part of a team where every role is crucial. “The dogs do the job, but you have to read the dogs, and interpret their work to the rangers. It’s a highly coordinated exercise,” she explained. “You need a huge amount of respect for the team together with the ability to put everything aside while you are working.”
Out in the field, the conditions are extreme, but Tina was well-prepared. “I think I got some of the skills on our walk, and then in Norway. Out there, there is no time to feel sorry for yourself.
Catch the full story in Lowveld Living Magazine.