Every dog has his day and in the case of Arrow, the German Shepherd specially trained to combat Africa’s poaching crisis, that day has well and truly arrived.
The two-year old pooch is one of almost 200 specially bread trained K9s at the Anti-Poaching and Canine Training Academy run by African defence and aerospace company Paramount Group.
But Arrow is a cut above the rest after being official recognised as the world’s first sky-diving anti-poaching dog by Guinness World Records.
“He’s a natural born skydiver and an adrenaline junkie – I was more scared than he was!”
Specially selected as a puppy for his temperament, Arrow was first trained to descend from a helicopter by rope before moving on to skydiving.
Completing his maiden jump from Waterkloof Airforce Base near Pretoria, Arrow was strapped to handler Henry Holtsthyzen for his debut jump.
Crucial to the jump’s success was the pre-existing relationship and trust betweem Holtsthyzen and his canine partner.
Since Arrow was first picked out as a puppy, the two have not only worked closely together but also eaten and even slept alongside each other.
For Holsthyzen, it’s all part of the process of ensuring the pair develop the kind of inseparable bond needed to carry out high-pressure anti-poaching tasks.
The result was as smooth a first skydive as you are ever likely to see.
“With my knowledge of Arrow – knowing him, and knowing his personality – it gave me a very good idea of what to expect and he acted accordingly. He’s a natural born skydiver and an adrenaline junkie – I was more scared than he was!” Holsthyzen explained.
“I jumped out of the helicopter and it was just natural for him to follow me. I rely on him and in turn he relies on me. I’m willing to go into battle with him because I trust him. Trust forms the basis of our relationship and that enables the handler and the K9 relationship to excel”.
The Paramount Anti-Poaching and K9 Academy was first set up to help address the increasing demand for the training of Conservation Officers in anti-poaching activities, wildlife contraband detection, specialist K9 solutions and Ranger K9 handler training.
In the last seven years the elephant population across Africa has fallen by almost a third, while rhino poaching has reached epidemic proportions, with around 1200 rhinos being killed in 2014 and 2015 in South Africa alone.
With the help and training provided by the Paramount Group and the Canine Academy, high flyers like Arrow could soon bring about a substantial change to those numbers.
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Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.