The newest addition to the anti-poaching cause at Ol Pejeta is its dog unit. A dozen dogs, mostly Dutch Shepherds crossed with Malinois, are being trained to take down a poacher when instructed to. They are also able to scent weapons and even smell ivory on a person. It is believed they will act as a powerful deterrent – and I was about to understand why.
I had already been warned that it weighed 100lbs and once it reached full speed it would be travelling at 35mph. Most disturbing of all was that its jaw had a biting strength of 40 pounds per square inch.
“He will go for the arm,” the dog’s handler had told me. “Then, if the person struggles, its teeth will shred the whole arm down to the wrist bone.”
The dog that was to be unleashed on me had been named Tarzan as he was so much bigger than the rest. Once released, he came towards me at such speed that I was almost caught by surprise as he loomed before me – sharp fangs and black set eyes.
I had been told to turn my head and hang out my right arm, so he would go for it not my body. The impact as he seized my arm was enough to swing me off my feet and I almost sailed in a full circle through the air before crunching against the ground.
It took three men to get him finally to release his grip. Even restrained, he pulled against his leash so the man holding it had to set his legs against the ground to control him. It was a pretty scary experience, especially the moments afterwards as he gripped and shook my arm with his jaw locked to the padding. Then there was no escaping his size and ferociousness.
“Do you want a second go?” Tarzan’s handler asked me. “Absolutely not,” came my answer.
For the sake of Ol Pejeta’s wildlife, let us just hope the elephant poachers prove as reluctant to confront him as I was at the prospect of having to face him once again.