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September 23, 2018

Loisaba bloodhounds help to catch poachers, trespassers in Kenya

A file photo of elephants at Sarova Taita Hills Lodge.
A file photo of elephants at Sarova Taita Hills Lodge.

Armed with a superior sense of smell - they can follow a trail for 130 miles - and bucketloads of slobber, two bloodhounds are helping to crack down on poaching in Africa.

Machine and Warrior, both aged seven, are used by the Loisaba conservancy in northern Kenya to track down poachers and trespassers on the 56,000 acre estate.

To date, the super sleuths have helped solve a number of serious incidents and most recently Machine discovered a shed full of guns being used for illegal purposes.

One of their trainers, Joseph, told MailOnline Travel that the canines have to be trained every day and their appetite for solving crime is matched by an equally healthy appetite for food.

In a bid to keep their concentration levels up, they are fed bowfuls of kibble (processed dog food) throughout the day.

The dogs' abilities are so revered that they are even loaned to other conservancies and private reserves who have been targeted by criminals.

A member of staff at Loisaba - which is home to dozens of species including reticulated giraffes, Grévy's zebra, elephant and leopard - said the number of poachers has dropped dramatically thanks to greater awareness around the problems and cooperation with the government.

In 2013, the Kenyan government announced that it had formed a special unit to combat the increasing poaching in the country, with rangers deployed nationwide.

Related: US donates Land Cruisers to boost anti-poaching war

Also read: Elephant poaching declines in Kenya, focus turns to world markets

At Loisaba, Warrior and Machine complement the work of the rangers.

They are usually sent out around 12 to 24 hours after an incident occurs to sniff out the culprit.

Research suggests that a bloodhound's sense of smell is at least 1,000 times stronger than a human's and they have been known to follow a scent trail for more than 130 miles.

MailOnline Travel put the dogs to the test with a quick game of hide and seek.

It was pretty incredible to watch the hounds in action and they retraced the exact path our pretend poacher took.

Machine and Warrior were born at the Ol Jogi reserve, which neighbours Loisaba, and their parents were imported from America.

Joseph said he chose the name Machine because it suited the bloodhound's athletic ability and he's "a very fast runner", while Warrior was a good name for his "angry" brother.

Tackling poaching from another angle, the Loisaba conservancy also works with the local Laikiiak Masai and Samburu communities, to help raise awareness around crimes and the importance of preserving the environment from over-grazing and habitat destruction.

For those interested in visiting the sprawling estate, there are 12 luxury ensuite tents and four rustic-styled huts on the site with an airstrip for planes to land on.

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