Snake Aversion Training

  • by Calum O'Flaherty June 15, 2024
Snake Aversion Training

Today is International Working Animal Day! For 30 years, our Livestock Guarding Dogs have been an integral part of our conservation efforts, and now, we are excited to announce another aspect of this innovative program – the launch of a new Snake Aversion Training Program for our Livestock Guarding Dogs!

Snakes pose a significant threat to our guardian dogs – especially in Namibia. A herpetological hotspot, Namibia is home to 81 different types of snakes – including 11 venomous species identified as being potentially life-threatening to humans (and dogs too). With this new training initiative, we are taking proactive steps to ensure the safety and well-being of our Livestock Guarding Dogs – while at the same time, also minimizing conflicts with wildlife, including the predators sometimes found beneath our feet.

So, what is Snake Aversion Training exactly? The process involves exposing dogs to the sight and smell of snakes in a controlled environment. By familiarizing our dogs with these cues, we’re teaching them to recognize and avoid potentially harmful encounters with snakes in the wild. For our Livestock Guarding Dogs, this training is especially important. Encountering a venomous snake can be life-threatening. In fact, snake bites are the leading cause of dog losses in the Livestock Guarding Dog program, particularly bites from black mambas, puff adders, and zebra cobras. By equipping our dogs with the skills to identify and steer clear of snakes, we’re reducing the risk of snake bite incidents and ensuring the long-term effectiveness of our conservation efforts.

Close-up of a realistic snake prop

Research and innovation are key components of our holistic approach to conservation. By investing in innovative initiatives that benefit both wildlife and local communities, like our Snake Aversion Training, we’re promoting coexistence between humans, livestock, and wildlife.

The Livestock Guarding Dog Program has shown remarkable success in reducing predation on livestock, which in turn decreases the retaliatory killings of cheetahs by farmers. These dogs, primarily Anatolian shepherds, are not only protectors but also peacekeepers, bridging the gap between human activities and the needs of wildlife. They are raised alongside livestock from an early age, ensuring they bond with the animals they are meant to protect. This early bonding is crucial for the success of the program, allowing the dogs to instinctively defend their charges without direct human intervention. The addition of Snake Aversion Training is just the latest step in enhancing the capabilities of these guardian dogs, ensuring they can perform their duties safely and effectively, thereby safeguarding not just livestock but also contributing to the broader goals of wildlife conservation.

This synergy of traditional livestock guarding with advanced training techniques underscores our commitment to innovative conservation solutions that respect and preserve the natural world while also supporting local communities.

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