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Look, up in the sky, it’s … it’s … it’s … skydiving anti-poaching dog!

If the ranks of specialized crime-fighting canines seem to be reaching new heights, well, they are.

Drug-sniffing dogs, bomb-detecting dogs, and even “porn dogs” are all already on duty, but there’s a new incarnation of crime fighting dog hovering on the horizon, and it may be most super-hero-like yet:

Skydiving anti-poaching dogs.

To help crackdown on the epidemic of ivory poaching in Africa, dogs are now being trained to parachute (with their handlers) from helicopters, track and take down poachers.

skydivingdogarrowArrow, the two-year-old Belgian Malinois shown in the photo to the left, hasn’t gone out on an actual mission yet.

But he and a six-year-old German shepherd named Giant, featured in the video above, are being trained for the task at the Anti-Poaching and Canine Training Academy, according to NationalGeographic.com

It’s run by Paramount Group, a defense contractor based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The academy’s canines, which are bred at the facility, are trained and matched with rangers from national parks and game reserves across Africa.

Dogs have been skydiving for a while now (remember the one on the Navy Seal mission that took down Osama bin Laden?). But that’s only half of this job.

Once on the ground, the dogs — much faster and better at tracking than humans — are released to pursue the poachers and bring them down before they vanish into the bush.

Both dogs have already mastered descending from a helicopter by rope, strapped to their handler, but parachuting gets them to the ground more quickly, and decreases the likelihood of the poachers being scared off by the noise of the helicopter.

An estimated 100 elephants a day are gunned down by poachers who saw off their tusks. About a thousand rhinos were killed last year by poachers who harvested their horns.

Africa’s parks are far too vast to be patrolled effectively, allowing the poachers to operate almost with impunity.

Dogs, as is often the case in war and crime-fighting, were seen as effective strategy. Flying dogs? Even better.

The risks (to the dogs) is high. Fleeing poachers could easily train their high powered rifles on the dog pursuing them. Having a drone chase them down, maybe one that could fire tranquilizer darts at the poachers, would seem to make more sense. But then again drones don’t have dog noses.

Eric Ichikowitz, director of the Johannesburg-based Ichikowitz Family Foundation, which helped launch the training program, says the dogs seem to like the chase, getting excited when they hear the roar of a helicopter.

“The dogs are exceptionally comfortable with skydiving,” he says.
“They know they’re going to work.”

(Photo: National Geographic)