“Bad” dogs find their purpose sniffing out poachers and stop illegal trafficking in ivory and rhino horn. Meet one pooch who’s saving wildlife.

You’ve heard of drug dogs that can sniff out banned substances in airports and train stations. You’re probably also familiar with search-and-rescue dogs who can find a missing person with just a scrap of fabric to go by. But did you know that dogs are now being used for a new but vitally important mission – to hunt poachers?

Ruger, a Labrador Retriever/German Shepherd mix, has single-handedly put more than 150 poachers out of business while working with an organization called Working Dogs for Conservation. Though he has become a skilled and highly successful member of the team, Ruger wasn’t always that way. Ruger is what Megan Parker, the director of Working Dogs for Conservation, would call a “bad” dog. Despite the fact that Ruger isn’t what most people would want for a pet, however, he makes a great detection dog for rhino horns, elephant ivory, guns, ammunition, and other forms of contraband being trafficked out of South Luangwa National Park in Zambia.

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Born on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana, Ruger was the only pup to escape when his owner shot the rest of his littermates. Ruger made his way to a local animal shelter where he caught the eye of Megan Parker. Parker is responsible for sourcing dogs-in-training for the organization and she knows what to look for. “Bad” dogs like Ruger have a relentless drive and they love to find things – these are exactly the skills needed to sniff out poachers.

Ruger’s road to success was not an easy one. In fact, many had their doubts about whether or not Ruger would make it through the program. Not only was he stubborn and poorly socialized, but he was going blind. During his first true test, however, Ruger successfully sniffed out a primer cap hidden in a matchbox wrapped in plastic and buried under multiple pieces of luggage. It was that moment when everyone realized that not only did Ruger know what he was doing, but he was good at it.

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Today, Ruger works alongside the scouts of “Delta Team,” a Zambian law enforcement unit that is operated by both the Zambia Wildlife Authority and the South Luangwa Conservation Society. With the help of other dogs and established roadblocks, Ruger searches stopped cars and trucks for illegal goods. A task that might take a human an hour or more Ruger accomplishes in just three to four minutes. He may be going blind, but that only leads him to rely even more heavily on his amazing sense of smell.

At just three years old, Ruger has become something of a local hero. He’s only been working since September of 2014 but he is already responsible for dozens of arrests and he has silenced countless nay-sayers who were once skeptical about his skills. Today, Ruger is credited with single-handedly putting more than 150 poachers out of business. With a success story like Ruger’s Megan Parker is hopeful that she will be able to grow the Working Dogs for Conservation program and to continue fighting back against poaching in Africa.

[Source: The Guardian]

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