Much like dogs have been brought into the poaching crisis for their specific skill set, horses are becoming a useful tool for anti-poaching units. Many active units are incorporating horses into their arsenal of tools to fight poaching. The horses have also been a game-changer for the rangers on patrol. On foot, a ranger can patrol 6 to 13 kilometers per 8-hour shift depending upon terrain. On horseback, the rangers can travel faster and farther than on foot, covering about 31 kilometers over a standard 5.5-hour patrol.
Horses also have advantages over vehicle patrols – they can travel more quietly and with less ecological impact. They are able to follow the exact pathways of rhinos, elephants and other wildlife where vehicles can meet heavy challenges in rough or steep terrain. This is also beneficial for emergency veterinary procedures or management efforts, as it is possible to get much closer to an animal hiding in the brush to administer a tranquilizer dart.
The horses have created an amazing opportunity for the rangers to connect with the community, acting as a gateway animal for the village to bond with and paving the road of trust and community involvement with the wildlife and the APU. Despite living in such close proximity, many of the local children have never seen a rhino, elephant, or giraffe. The horses are a beacon, especially to children, and naturally encourage people to come up and ask questions.