Braman, a Refugio rancher, and businessman has long trained coonhounds to hunt animals such as bobcats, mountain lions, and coyotes. Now, Braman is using his expertise to train dogs to hunt criminal rhino poachers.
Braman has teamed up with South African conservation alliance and trainer Esequiel “Zeke” Ortiz in an effort to stop rhino poaching and to help bring back the rhino population, which is near the brink of extinction.
Ivan Carter, the founder of the Ivan Carter Wildlife Conservation Alliance, has long known of Braman and his work for several years and applauds his efforts given the dire state of rhino poaching. “With rhino horn becoming the most valuable commodity on Earth and rhinos having been poached to the brink of extinction, this is a topic of much conversation,” Carter stated in an email.
The horn of a white rhino sells for up to $3,000 a pound, according to a 2016 investigative report by National Geographic. Rhino horns are made up of keratin, the same protein found in human nails and hair, and is used for medicine.
Carter reached out to Braman for his dog-training expertise after witnessing rhinos left mutilated for their horns. “The ability for free-running dogs to track a poacher (whose scent is) that many hours old is a capacity we have never done before — this truly is the answer, and the fact that these dogs have been trained not only to track man but to actually (allow officials to) arrest a person makes them a unique tool that I think has the chance of changing the entire poaching landscape,” Carter said.
Ortiz and Braman train the dogs day and night for any possibility they may encounter. The dogs are able to track a human scent several hours old and miles out. “Animals are easier because they have habits and patterns. But people are unpredictable. You don’t know what a person will do,” Braman said.
Braman and Ortiz have one ultimate goal: to deter poachers with the hounds and save more rhinos life. The hounds are expected to fly to South Africa this summer to begin their mission.
“The way it’s going now, in a couple of generations, people will not be able to see a real rhino. If there’s something I can — or anyone else — can do, we should do it,” Braman said.
If you’d like to help stop rhino poaching, please never support the cruel industry by purchasing poached items and support bans on rhino horn sales in your city. As animal advocates, it’s up to us to raise awareness to friends, family, and community members about vicious rhino horn poaching!