Matt Barbour and Olivia Tobin, Liverpool Echo | March 22, 2021
A beloved family pet that used to get cuddles from a four-year-old girl is now doing “elite” work in Kenya to take down rhino poachers.
Ella Craig’s family reluctantly gave up Rocky the Dutch shepherd because they could not give him the attention he needed.
The dogs – originally used for herding – can grow to 5st and need plenty of exercise.
A rescue charity took in 10-month-old Rocky and placed him with German Shepherd Rescue Elite, a group that specialises in finding appropriate work for larger dogs.
Within weeks he was picked to try out for the elite K9 unit in Kenya, the Mirror reported.
Rocky was put through six months of training at a specialist centre in Suffolk.
The course included parachuting out of helicopters, abseiling, jumping through hoops of fire, crawling in tunnels and tracking and nabbing targets.
And this month he landed at the 110,000-acre Ol Pejeta Conservancy, home to 144 rhinos.
Rocky – renamed Rekari by his Kenyan handlers – has joined a team of five bloodhounds, a spaniel and a Belgian Malinois assault dog.
They are used to trail and apprehend poachers.
Former owner Niall Craig, a steel fixer, is chuffed.
Niall, 30, said: “It’s mind-blowing to think less than 12 months ago this dog was being cuddled on our sofa by our four-year-old daughter Ella.
“To see Rocky now protecting those amazing animals, it’s brilliant.”
In the past 10 years more than 7,000 African rhinos have been killed, but Ol Pejeta prides itself that none of its animals have been poached since 2018.
The dogs have played a crucial role.
Hetal Ganatra, Ol Pejeta director, said: “There’s basically no technology better than our canine friends, and Rekari will save countless rhinos in the coming years.”