Kruger anti-poaching dog takes on a lion ... and comes out alive
Akita has been placed on light duties after she survived the surprise encounter while on a training exercise
For Akita, a seven-year-old Belgian shepherd assigned to the Kruger National Park’s anti-poaching unit, it’s been a case of once bitten twice shy.
The youngster, who has been behind the arrest of 29 poachers, recently had a narrow escape when she decided to expand her target list to include lions.
Based in the park’s Letaba section, Akita was being put through her paces during a routine exercise session in October by her handler when she surprised a lone male lion hiding in the bush.
“I don’t think she or the lion expected to come across each other,” said the park’s K9 Unit manager, Johan de Beer, who added that she was off her tracking leash at the time.
Tracking leashes are used by handlers to follow the dogs once they pick up the scent of a poacher.
De Beer said the exercises she was doing at the time were aimed at keeping her fit for patrols.
“At one point she ran straight to the bush. It’s there that the encounter occurred. There was a bit of a scrap, but fortunately it was not too serious. The worst was a bite which she got to her bum, but that, like the rest of her, will heal.”
He said Akita was lucky to escape without serious injuries, only severe scratches and bruises.
“She is one lucky puppy. Her organs and muscles are all fine. In the end she is just badly bruised and sore.
“For now she is on light duties, but soon she will be back again to hunt down poachers.”
He said in addition to being one of the record holders for arrest rates among anti-poaching dogs, she now probably also has the distinction of being the first dog to have been attacked by a lion and lived.
De Beer said he doubted that Akita, who was recovering well, would be repeating her lion-tackling trick.
“This encounter definitely saw her using up a lot of her very precious lives.”
Park spokesperson Ike Phaahla said Akita was one of more than 19 anti-poaching dogs operating in the Kruger Park.
“We use dogs as part of our anti-poaching system because as much as the bush protects animals, it also protects poachers.
“Dogs are force multipliers. They have good sense of smell and close the gap when helping their handlers to track down poachers.
“They are definitely the most innovative form of technology which we use in our anti-poaching strategy and are a real game changer with over 90% of arrests being effected through the K9 Unit’s assistance.” In July, TimesLIVE reported that 10 counter-poaching dogs had arrived in SA from Texas in the US to join the K9 Unit to help stop poaching. The crossbreeds are trained as free-running pack dogs, and can reach up to 40km/h over short distances and can cover up to 30km in two hours.