23rd Nov, 2017

Safari Park's Canine Conservation

Worcester Editorial 7th Sep, 2017

West Midland Safari Park will be hosting a special fundraising week, dedicated to supporting dogs in Africa who help to protect and conserve endangered rhinos and cheetahs.

Conservation Dogs will run from 9-17 September, whereby staff will aim to raise awareness of the vital role dogs play in conservation programmes for wildlife. All the funds raised during the week will go towards Save The Rhino International’s Dog Squad and a research project to aid the work of the Cheetah Outreach’s Livestock Guarding Dog (LGD) Programme.

During the week, a variety of fun activities, quizzes and competitions will take place, including the chance to win an exclusive Cheetah Feed for two. The Park’s Conservation Tent will house interesting facts and information, and there will be an opportunity to purchase badges of the Park’s cheetahs, rhinos or sponsored dogs. Additionally, the brand new Safari Academy is running hands-on crafts and games linked to Conservation Dogs during weekends.

Research and Conservation Officer, Katie McDonald, said, “Dogs are the new ‘best friends’ of wildlife conservation. Increasingly, those working to protect threatened species are using dogs for a huge variety of tasks. These range from sniffing out illegally sourced products of animal origin, such as ivory, to disarming rhino poachers.

“During our Conservation Dogs campaign, we want to spread the word about how dogs are employed in conservation and raise funds to help two conservation initiatives. Cheetah Outreach’s LGD Programme supplies guard dogs to farmers in Africa. The dogs protect livestock from predators, such as cheetahs, reducing the farmers’ need to remove carnivores from their lands. In Kenya, the Save The Rhino International Dog Squad uses dogs to track and disarm poachers who would otherwise kill black and white rhinos for their horns.”

She continued, “Cheetahs are on the decline in Africa and the threat to rhinos from poaching is increasing. We want to support conservation efforts for these animals by championing the dogs whose special skills are helping to save the species.”

To support the fundraising for Conservation Dogs, several brave keepers will be participating in the Great Birmingham Run on 15 October. Rosie Wilkes, from the Wildlife Team, said, “Through conservation weeks at WMSP, we have a wonderful opportunity to raise funds for some really great causes. As the last week is focussed on how dogs are being used to support conservation work, we have organised a fun and challenging dog walk with the keepers and their canine companions.”

She continued, “Additionally, some of the staff have decided to embark on an even bigger challenge, which is a half marathon (the Great Birmingham Run). This is to represent the hard work and immense challenges that these dogs can face in their daily work and also raise additional funds and more importantly, awareness.”

For all of the Park’s conservation weeks, local artist Zaza Shelley will be producing some amazing limited edition prints of the Park’s animals, including the cheetahs and rhinos. Proceeds from sales of the prints will also go towards both Save The Rhino International’s Dog Squad and a research project to aid the work of the Cheetah Outreach’s LGD Programme. Prints are available to purchase from the conservation section on Zaza’s website.

Save The Rhino International’s Dog Squad’s is made up of dog and handler teams that are trained to deter and detect poachers in Kenya. All money raised to the Dog Squad will support a range of activities, including veterinary care for the dogs, assisting their handlers in training the dogs and purchasing vital equipment, such as binoculars and dog food. Half of the funds raised will go the Save The Rhino International’s Dog Squad. Find out more by visiting their website.

Cheetah Outreach’s main aim is to place dogs on farms in southern Africa and vastly reduce the farmers’ incentives to rid their lands of predators, such as cheetahs. Half of the funds raised will go to a research project to aid the work of Cheetah Outreach’s (LGD) Programme. Find out more by visiting their website.

The rhinos and cheetahs can be seen in West Midland Safari Park’s four-mile drive-through Reserves, and Conservation Dogs Week is included in the standard admission price of £23.00 for adults, £18.00 for children aged 3-15 and £21.00 for concessions. Admission includes a voucher for a return visit or safari gift. Adventure Theme Park rides are charged extra.

Further information and tickets are available from the Park’s website or by telephone 01299 402114. You can find out more on the Safari Park’s official Facebook page.

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