American rescue dogs are helping fight poaching in Africa

Elephants.
(Image credit: Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images)

It's a long way from Nevada to Zambia's North Luangwa National Park, and Vicka, a high-energy black dog who was abandoned at an Elko animal shelter in 2015, is enjoying her new life helping park rangers catch poachers.

Vicka is one of five rescue dogs trained by the Working Dogs for Conservation organization to assist rangers protecting elephants, leopards, rhinos, and pangolin. The dogs are taught to sniff out hidden weapons, ammunition, and harvested animals, and they're responsible for rangers making dozens of arrests and finding contraband like ivory tusks and bush meat. Vicka started off strong — on her first day at work, she discovered 10 guns that would have been used to shoot elephants. Another dog, Ruger from Montana, was feral, and after being rescued went blind. That doesn't stop him from making amazing discoveries, like the time he walked on to a crowded bus and alerted rangers to a suitcase. Inside was a plastic bag containing a matchbox, which held a key component of a muzzle loader that would have been used to poach an elephant.

The dogs are considered 40 times more effective than trail cameras and hair snares, USA Today reports, and the handlers say searches that used to take them all night now only take about 20 minutes, thanks to their four-legged assistants.

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